Activist news site Popular Resistance reports that the wave of protests against pipeline construction over the past decade has had a significant effect, as noted in a natural gas industry trade publication below. – Ed.
Most Significant Barrier For Pipeline Construction: Protests
By Staff, www.PopularResistance.org
October 23rd, 2015
The Gas Industry is Feeling the Pressure from “Entrenched” Environmentals and “Noisy Opposition”
The Black and Veatch survey of the gas industry, 2015 Strategic Directions: U.S. Natural Gas Industry Report, found: “Respondents felt the most significant barrier associated with the construction of new pipelines was delays caused by opposition groups.”
According to the report, the expansion of pipelines is “not without challenges. Regulatory authorization wait times and limits on capital recovery along with entrenched opposition from environmental and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) present challenges to the successful execution of projects.” (Page 16).
The gas industry sees “Activists Engage Regulators and Industry” this is causing them problems:
Pipeline projects are receiving greater attention from environmental and safety activists as owners attempt to build infrastructure to meet the rising demand for gas power generation and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Environmental activists have recently turned their attention to FERC’s extensive pipeline siting process as an opportunity to slow or block projects.
In particular, environmental groups opposed to increased supply from shale gas production have tried to disrupt FERC pipeline proposal meetings through mounting protests and social media campaigns. This creates additional hurdles for maintaining project timelines and has the potential to derail pipeline projects because of rising development costs and missing key milestones in contract obligations. (Figure 9, Page 20).
Their poll of the gas industry found that protesters were the cause of the two biggest factors creating barriers for pipeline construction. The report notes that the gas industry and the federal “regulatory” agency FERC that works closely with the industry are seeking to develop new strategies to combit the protest movement.
The two factors that pipeline respondents felt were the most significant barriers associated with the construction of new pipeline capacity were delays from opposition groups, 78 percent, and regulatory uncertainty, 68 percent (Figure 17).
To provide additional guidance for project participants, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently issued a set of guidelines that it expects the pipelines to follow: check with landowners and the community, know who you should notify and how to deal with environmental groups. If an energy company has not checked the boxes, it is pretty clear that FERC is not going to process the application to build the pipeline. At the same time, the interstate pipeline industry is pushing back against the noisy opposition, rather than letting the activist groups monopolize the story unchallenged. Industry associations are finding new ways to reach the public, such as the use of social media and other venues, while attempting to reach the landowners first.
The process is in educating the public and engaging in community outreach sooner than later. Every proposed pipeline project must include a proactive public and community relations effort. Even FERC experienced the activist push at its meetings and has seen everyday citizens become unexpected interveners in routine filings. (Page 42-43)
The reality of the marketplace is also beginning to set in, more cautious optimism and depressed prices: “What is clear is that the exuberance of 2014 is waning. In its place is a more cautious optimism buoyed by an expectation that LNG exports and natural gas-powered electric generation — along with opportunities in transportation — will fuel industry growth, but pricing will remain depressed by historical standards.” (Page 16)
What does it all mean? Activists should keep the pressure up and if possible escalate to build on the success of protest.