Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today thanked the Interior Department for backing H.R. 4606, his legislation to allow the National Park Service (NPS) to issue a right-of-way permit for maintenance of a natural gas pipeline that crosses into Glacier National Park's southern boundary for 3.5 miles. The legislation clarifies a question of authority for the Park Service to issue permits for natural gas pipelines. Currently, NPS has the authority to issue permits for electricity and communication lines. The Interior Department's support came before a hearing today on Rehberg's bill in front of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
"The hearing, and the support by the Interior Department, is a big step toward ensuring folks in the Flathead have a safe and reliable source of natural gas energy, while protecting Glacier National Park," said Rehberg, a member of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. "This is essentially a question of defining who has final authority over utilities in the Park, and will not only benefit the folks of northwest Montana, but also help NorthWestern Energy and the Park Service ensure the pipeline is safe and dependable."
NorthWestern Energy owns and maintains the 118-mile pipeline that runs parallel to U.S. Highway 2 along Glacier's southern boundary. The line serves 25,000 customers in the Flathead. Built in 1962 under a special-use permit issued by NPS, the permit had been previously renewed under authority of the Park Service, until 1990, when it was eventually determined that no federal statute existed to allow NPS to specifically authorize gas pipelines. Sections of law authorized other federal agencies to issue right-of-way permits for natural gas lines, but those laws excluded lands located in National Parks. Congress has been filing that void when needed.
Rehberg's bill deals specifically with the pipeline in Glacier National Park. Testimony in support of the legislation by the U.S. Interior Department was heard today from Victor Knox, National Park Service Associate Director for Park Planning, Facilities and Lands.