H.R. 3301, the "North American Energy Infrastructure Act"

Bill Status: 
Passed by House
Last Action: 
Jun 24, 2014

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) introduced H.R. 3301 on October 22, 2013.  The bill, as introduced, replaces the current procedure and requirements to obtain a presidential permit for construction of transboundary oil or natural gas pipelines and electric transmission lines.  The bill’s new approval process effectively requires approval of all transboundary pipelines and transmission projects with little or no federal environmental review.   Modifications to existing cross-border pipelines or transmission lines would not require any approval or review at all.

Under the new process, the permitting agency is required to approve an application within 120 days, unless the agency finds that the project “is not in the national security interests of the United States.”  The bill also exempts these permit decisions from the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires analysis of the environmental effects of major federal actions.  Under the current process, the permitting agency must affirmatively determine that a project is in the “national interest” or “public interest.”  The bill’s much narrower standard and NEPA exemption would preclude the permitting agency from understanding, even considering, much less conditioning or rejecting a project based on, environmental, safety, electric reliability, economic, or competitiveness impacts.

The bill temporarily exempts from the new process any projects that are currently pending approval.  But this exemption applies only until the project application is denied or July 1, 2016, at the latest.  Thus, if the President determines that a pending project such as the Keystone XL pipeline or the Alberta-Clipper pipeline expansion is not in the public interest, that project could simply reapply and would almost certainly be approved under the bill’s new process.

The Committee on Energy and Commerce marked up the bill on May 8, 2014.  At the markup, Reps. Upton and Green offered an amendment that significantly modified the underlying bill but did not address many of the concerns that had been raised in earlier committee proceedings.  The revised language still effectively requires approval of transboundary oil pipeline and transmission projects.  Under the revised language, the relevant federal agencies must issue a “certificate of crossing” to a company seeking to build a transboundary oil pipeline or transmission line unless the project is deemed not in the public interest.  The revised language significantly narrows the environmental review process to just the segment of the project that crosses the border, ignoring the other environmental impacts along the project’s route.  The revised language also allows projects denied under the existing process to reapply under the new process, where approval is almost certain.  The Committee favorably reported the bill by a vote of 31-19.   

   

113th Congress