GOP Senators push reforms to help energy producers


Oklahoma U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford are among a handful of oil-states senators who joined Texas Senator John Cornyn in supporting a bill pushing for infrastructure permitting reforms after a fast-track program came under court challenge this year and became the latest roadblock for the Keystone XL heavy crude pipeline.

Sen. Cornyn introduced the bill this week and was joined by Sens. Inhofe and Lankford as well as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, John barrasso of Wyoming, Shelley Moore Capitol of West Virginia, Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Steve Daines of Montana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. All are Republicans.

“Oklahoma families depend on the development of critical infrastructure to keep our economy moving forward,” said Lankford. “Too frequently, the regulatory process is used as a tool to stop development rather than to ensure projects are done in an environmentally responsible manner. The American people are the ones who suffer when responsible infrastructure projects are delayed or denied. I’m proud to cosponsor Senator Cornyn’s legislation, which will provide predictability for projects covered by the Army Corps of Engineers’ nationwide permit program while any legal challenges to this critical program are resolved. Infrastructure projects are simply too important for us to ignore the legal uncertainty and endless red tape.”

“The United States leads the world in oil and gas production and we’re on track to be a net energy exporter,” Inhofe said. “While liberal activists are attempting to hijack the federal permitting process, we have the opportunity to allow for investment in our nation’s infrastructure and, once we are on the other side of this pandemic, our energy producers here at home will be able to meet the increased demand. I am proud to join Senator Cornyn’s bill and continue advocating for the Oklahoma energy industry.”  

“In the middle of a pandemic, Texas energy producers face enough uncertainty right now,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “We should be encouraging investment in critical infrastructure so that once we return to normal, domestic energy producers will be able to meet the increased demand.”

“The policy of today’s environmental Left is to delay, stop, or, in some cases, physically destroy, the construction of any new pipelines in this county,” Sen. Cruz said“This is bad for our energy security and bad for the blue-collar jobs that these projects support. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Cornyn that will provide greater clarity in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permitting process for new pipelines and other utility lines, while still ensuring our Nation’s waterways are protected.”

Cornyn’s bill would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act “to clarify certain activities that would have been authorized under Nationwide Permit 12 and other Nationwide Permits,” according to the preliminary text of the bill.

Katie Bays, managing director of FiscalNote Markets, said the co-sponsors signal that the measure is likely aimed at the Northern Plains Resource Council lawsuit against the US Army Corps of Engineers reported S&P Global Platts.

In that case, a Montana judge in April vacated the Corps of Engineers’ NWP12 program and prevented the Corps from using it to authorize construction across waterways. The US Supreme Court later allowed the permits to resume during the appeals process, except in the case of TC Energy’s long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project from Alberta to Nebraska.

TC Energy said July 30 that it intends to pursue “other permitting means” to authorize waterway crossings and get the project back on track.

Bays said the bill’s sponsors likely want to ensure that pipelines have access to NWP12 permitting even if a future administration makes a decision that pipelines should be permitted using the more onerous process of individual permitting.

The American Petroleum Institute said the bill would bring “an efficient, short-term solution to restore regulatory certainty and allow continued development of critical infrastructure projects affected by recent federal court decisions” by ensuring the Corps and project owners could continue to rely on NWP12.

Bays predicted the Cornyn bill may move through the Environment and Public Works Committee, but does not have a realistic chance of passage by the full Senate.

“It looks like political messaging to me, and certainly we’ve seen the White House use the pipeline industry and energy broadly as a political signal in recent weeks,” she said.

Source: S&P Global Platts