August in the highlands has seemed a lot cooler with more rain than usual. The WVHC committees are hard at work on issues before them and I want to extend a big thanks for their time devoted and the resulting progress. Seems like the issues just keep multiplying as they try to keep ahead of them.
Hot off the press is the Senator Manchin proposed energy permitting provisions.
Senator Manchin Proposed Energy Permitting Provisions
Designate and prioritize projects of strategic national importance.
· Direct the President to designate and periodically update a list of at least 25 high-priority energy infrastructure projects and prioritize permitting for these projects.
· Require a balanced list of project types, including: critical minerals, nuclear, hydrogen, fossil fuels, electric transmission, renewables, and carbon capture, sequestration, storage, and removal.
· Criteria for selecting designated projects includes: reducing consumer energy costs, improving energy reliability, decarbonization potential, and promoting energy trade with our allies.
Set maximum timelines for permitting reviews, including two years for NEPA reviews for major projects and one year for lower-impact projects.
· Require a single inter-agency environmental review document and concurrent agency review processes.
· Designate a lead agency to coordinate inter-agency review.
· Expand eligibility for the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) streamlining and transparency programs to ensure smaller energy projects, critical minerals and mining, and other key programs can benefit from FPISC. Provide FPISC funds to accelerate permitting.
· Improve the process for developing categorical exclusions under NEPA.
Improve Section 401 of the Clean Water Act by incorporating improvements from both the Trump and Biden administrations.
· Require one of four final actions within one year of certification requests: grant, grant with conditions, deny, or waive certification.
· Clarify that the basis of review is water quality impacts from the permitted activity, based on federal, State, and Tribal standards.
· Require certification applications to include available information on potential water quality impacts.
· Prohibit State or Tribal agencies from requesting project applicants to withdraw applications to stop/pause/restart the certification clock.
· Require States and Tribes to publish clear requirements for water quality certification requests, or else default to federal requirements.
Address excessive litigation delays.
· Set statute of limitations for court challenges.
· Require that if a federal court remands or vacates a permit for energy infrastructure, the court must set and enforce a reasonable schedule and deadline, not to exceed 180 days, for the agency to act on remand.
· Require random assignment of judges for all federal circuit courts.
Clarify FERC jurisdiction regarding the regulation of interstate hydrogen pipeline, storage, import, and export facilities.
Enhance federal government permitting authority for interstate electric transmission facilities that have been determined by the Secretary of Energy to be in the national interest.
· Replace DOE’s national interest electric transmission corridor process with a national interest determination by the Secretary of Energy that allows FERC to issue a construction permit.
· Require FERC to ensure costs for transmission projects are allocated to customers that benefit.
· Allow FERC to approve payments from utilities to jurisdictions impacted by a transmission project.
Complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Require the relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and give the DC Circuit jurisdiction over any further litigation.
FERC Grants Mountain Valley Four-Year Extension to Build 303-Mile Pipeline
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s (MVP) request for four more years, until October 13, 2026, to build the natural gas line from West Virginia to Virginia.
FERC did not pay attention to the overwhelming majority of commenters asked the Commission to deny the extension request for the 303-mile pipeline slated to carry fracked gas across 11 counties in West Virginia before crossing into Virginia.
Looks like they have followed the proposed recommendation of Senator Manchin above in their decision to grant this extension. It will be interesting to see what actions the opposing commenters will take in the future.
New Deputy Supervisor at the Monongahela National Forest
Robert West has accepted the position of deputy forest supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest in Elkins, West Virginia.
Robert began his federal career as a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Montana. He has served as a Partnership Coordinator on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, a Staff Assistant in the WO Office of the Chief, and a Program Specialist in WO Fire and Aviation Management. Robert is joining us from the Hiawatha National Forest where he has been the District Ranger for the St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie Districts for the past 8 years.
WVHC looks forward to meeting and working with Robert in the future.
Please see the information about this year’s Fall Review on pp. 10-13 of this issue. The committee has worked very hard to plan the Review, and I am looking forward to the many presentations by a great group of presenters.
Again, the WVHC board wants to thank all of our members and supporters for their continued support, which makes possible what we are doing.