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It’s directed against inertia, lack of communication, and “foot-dragging” between agencies. The memorandum implements Executive Order No. 13807, issued in August 2017, which aims to streamline infrastructure review timetables that require environmental impact statements under NEPA. Cathy Landry, a spokeswoman for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, a trade organization representing natural gas pipelines, said the group views “better cooperation and concurrent review by participating agencies as important to the timely review of proposed pipeline projects.” But Earthjustice said the memorandum sets arbitrary timelines that go against FERC mandates, which require a thorough review of the entire project. The shortened time frames “run the danger of curbing public participation, which is really necessary for FERC to understand the impacts these projects could have on the ground,” Moneen Nasmith, a staff attorney at Earthjustice’s New York office, told Bloomberg Environment. Public participation is primarily accomplished using formal commenting. Separately, FERC is currently reviewing how it issues natural gas pipeline certificates. It is assessing the emphasis it puts on agreements signed between pipeline owners and customers—who sometimes are affiliates of the owners—versus other factors like other pipelines in the area and environmental impacts. “I would really hope that FERC is using its intention to review its policy statement on gas pipeline certification to talk about how they will really beef up early public engagement,” Tierney said. Likewise, Montina Cole, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg Environment, “There’s a real issue of there being a meaningful opportunity for public participation, particularly when you talk about stakeholders who lack resources.” Christine Tezak, managing director for ClearView Energy Partners LLC, an energy analysis group, predicts that FERC can shorten reviews without sacrificing public input. FERC on average takes slightly more than two years—approximately 25 months—to issue a natural gas pipeline certificate, according to Tezak’s research. This review period starts when FERC issues a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement and ends when FERC issues the natural gas certificate, Tezak told Bloomberg Environment. The notice of intent is issued during the informal pre-filing stage of the FERC review process before the pipeline company formally submits their application for review, which is the time frame tracked under the memorandum.
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