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Mr. Chairman, this bill is a solution desperately searching for a problem.
In July of 2013, before the committee, Commissioner Moeller said that 90 percent of permit applications to FERC are already approved within 12 months and that the delays on the remaining 10 percent are due to either the complexities of the proposed projects or incomplete applications, something which indicates there is hardly a need for the amendment. In addition to that statement, there has been no record of any backlog of permit applications that justifies the need to overhaul pipeline permitting regulations.
There is an old saying, If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I am curious as to why it is we are trying to fix something here that is not broken.
I am worried that, if this legislation were to somehow become law, we would already see that the agencies and the courts, in their consideration, would rush around to try and figure out what it was the Congress intended and how these matters could or should be proceeded upon more expeditiously. That, according to the government agencies that appeared before the committee, is completely unnecessary.
Having said these things, I would like to call to the attention of my colleagues here that the amendment that I offer today simply directs the GAO to take another look at the permitting process and to take into consideration these issues to tell us what it is that needs to be done to better expedite the process.
Why this? The reason is very simple. The committee had one day of hearing, had very little support for the legislation, no explanation of why it was needed, the agencies appearing before the committee said it really wasn't necessary, and other witnesses testified that it wasn't needed.
The report of the GAO will identify the problems which exist, and we can then use the oversight authority of the committee and the Congress to fix such problems as might be found and have an intelligent record as to what can, or should, be done to make this a step which, in fact, will help us move forward on pipeline permitting.
Now, I want to make it very clear I am not opposed to natural gas pipelines, nor am I opposed to moving forward speedily and intelligently. The system is working, the Congress has devised a system of permitting that works, sees to it that safety is properly attended to, and has given proper oversight, including legislation recently to ensure that proper behavior and proper safety of the pipelines do take place.
I urge the committee to support my amendment. It gives us a bill of which we can be proud, instead of a bill about which people are going to scratch their heads and wonder what was the Congress doing when they foisted this miserable thing upon us.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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Mr. Chairman, this legislation is unnecessary. Every witness before the committee found no reason why it had to be enacted into law. It was made very clear that there have been no incidences of egregious delay by any events before the permitting authorities. There is no need for the legislation.
The amendment is a friendly amendment offered to enable us to find out if there are, in fact, problems; and if there are, in fact, problems, then we will be able to take the necessary action to correct whatever problems might exist.
At this particular time, there is no evidence of need for the legislation. In 90 percent of the time, the permits have been granted within the 1-year period. It is only necessary to allow time for others where the permitting application was incorrectly or improperly done and only where the complexity of the situation requires more time.
What I am hearing from the other side is they feel that there is need for us to move more rapidly in these complex cases where serious mistakes can be made and we can have the danger of an unsafe pipeline resulting.
I would remind my colleagues that a pipeline explosion, only the failure of a gas pipeline, is like a nuclear event.
I urge the adoption of the amendment, and if not adopted, the rejection of the legislation.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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