Capito, EPW Republicans call USACE for political review of NWP 12

WASHINGTON DC — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), a ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today led her Republican colleagues on the committee in a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor expressing strong opposition to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) decision to formally review National Permit (NWP) 12, the Corps General Permit for Pipeline Activities or gas pipeline.

“The timing of your NWP 12 review announcement is both disappointing and confusing, given the recent spike in energy prices and rapidly rising inflation across the economy, as well than the crisis in Ukraine and the demand for American energy from our allies”, wrote the members. “Your decision to officially review NWP 12 is another example of creating unnecessary obstacles and uncertainties for the development of critical energy projects. Complicated, time-consuming and, above all, unnecessary permitting processes remain one of the main barriers to building our nation’s infrastructure The decision to isolate and review NWP 12 for oil and gas pipelines is purely political, as this political action is not required by law or regulatory deadlines.

In addition to ranking member Capito, the following Republican senators from the EPW committee have signed the letter: Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Kevin Cramer (RN.D.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roger Wicker ( R-Miss.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (RS.C.).

See the full letter here and below:

Dear Assistant Secretary Connor:

We are writing to express our strong opposition to your decision to formally review National Permit (NWP) 12 for oil or gas pipeline operations. As you know, on January 13, 2021, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) enacted a rule that reissued 12 existing National Permits and issued four new National Permits. The Corps has divided NWP 12 – which previously covered all “utility line activities” – into three parts based on the type of utility activity requiring a permit. NWP 12 continues to authorize oil and gas pipelines; the new NWP 57 concerns power lines and telecommunications; and NWP 58 addresses utility line operations for water and other substances. By reforming the NWP 12 process, the Corps was able to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of permits, while ensuring environmental protection.

The timing of your NWP 12 review announcement is both disappointing and confusing, given the recent spike in energy prices and rapidly rising inflation across the economy, as well as of the crisis in Ukraine and the demand for American energy from our allies. Over the past few months, we’ve seen gasoline prices skyrocket to over $4 a gallon, while diesel prices have soared to over $5 a gallon. Abroad, Russian aggression is forcing us to offer our European partners an alternative energy supply.

Unfortunately, this decision follows other energy policies of this administration that run counter to national and geopolitical realities. In truth, the current energy price spikes were triggered on the first day of President Biden’s administration, which appears determined to decimate the US energy sector. Your decision to officially review NWP 12 is another example of creating unnecessary hurdles and uncertainty for the development of critical energy projects. Complicated, time-consuming and, above all, unnecessary permitting processes remain one of the main obstacles to building our country’s infrastructure. The decision to isolate and review NWP 12 for oil and gas pipelines is purely political, as this political action is not required by law or regulatory deadlines.

Similarly, a recent court filing by the administration acknowledges the benefits of NWP 12 and contradicts the justifications for the review announced by the Corps. Just last month, the administration advised the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in ongoing litigation that “the evacuation of NWP 12 would be extremely disruptive to the Corps and entities building and repairing oil and gas pipeline projects across the country.” The Administration also maintained that “the Corps reasonably extended its review of potential effects under NEPA and properly considered those effects.” Any regulatory changes regarding NWP 12 would have far-reaching implications for project sponsors, our energy security, and the livelihoods of American workers and consumers. As the Administration made clear in the aforementioned court filing:

Vacatur [of NWP 12] would therefore operate to require a cumbersome individualized body authorization process for thousands of projects across the country, contravening the statutory design of Congress created in Section 404(e). This would be the case even for activities that only required a few square feet of backfill in one location. The resulting programmatic impacts on the Corps would be significant and lead to delays in obtaining permits.

We couldn’t agree more. Corps launch review of NWP 12 as administration defends administration’s process to develop NWP 12 in court – in filing same day President Biden made energetic announcement showing his support to maximizing US liquid natural gas exports to support our allies in Europe2 – demonstrates a lack of policy coherence. This inconsistency hinders the deployment of essential energy production and infrastructure. The federal government must pursue policies that responsibly protect our environment while supporting economic growth, job creation, and energy security for Americans and our allies. With all of these factors in mind, the only logical course of action is for the Corps to suspend its proposed formal review of NWP 12 and maintain, unchanged, the common sense provisions of the existing NWP 12.

We thank you for your attention to this request and we look forward to your response as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

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