Energy Outlook 2016

By Frank Vlossak

The past year saw significant legislative and regulatory action on energy policy and energy infrastructure issues. 2016 will continue this pace of activity. In 2015, Congress:

  • Advanced energy policy legislation, which includes reforms to the federal approval process for natural gas pipelines and the permit process for cross-border energy infrastructure.
  • Began work on updates to the pipeline safety statute.
  • Enacted legislation repealing the ban on crude oil exports.

The Executive Branch also took action in the energy sphere last year:

  • On November 6, 2015, President Obama announced his Administration had rejected TransCanada’s application for a Presidential Border-Crossing Permit.
  • The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published proposed rules that would expand regulation of oil and hazardous liquid pipelines.
  • PHMSA also issued proposed rules covering operator qualifications, notification requirements for pipeline spills and incidents, and other issues.
  • PHMSA finalized comprehensive rules targeting crude oil rail safety, including a mandated phase-out of legacy tank cars.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the new five-year rate index for liquid pipelines.

Key policy developments in 2016 are expected to include:

  • Congress will continue work on pipeline safety legislation, with the full Senate potentially voting on the bill approved by the Commerce Committee early in the year.
  • The Senate may take up the energy bill approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July, 2015.
  • PHMSA is expected to issue a proposed rule on natural gas pipeline safety, which would parallel liquid pipeline safety Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in 2015.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to propose new regulations on the use of PCBs, which will affect natural gas pipelines.

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