Jan 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has finalized revisions to its Nationwide Permits, a program for utility stream crossings that has been criticized by environmentalists, which analysts say could cause problems for oil and natural gas pipelines.
In recent years, state governments, Native American tribes and environmental groups have successfully challenged the Army Corps’ use of the Nationwide Permit Program to stop construction of several big oil and gas pipelines.
Those projects include TC Energy Corp’s Keystone XL crude pipe and Equitrans Midstream Corp’s Mountain Valley gas pipe.
The revisions, which make it easier for companies to receive Nationwide Permits, also create three categories of linear utility infrastructure: oil and gas pipes, water and sewer pipes, and power and telecommunications lines.
“Because these changes lack scientific or legal justification and threaten important waterways, we hope and expect the Biden administration will move quickly to undo them,” said Jon Devine, the director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC said the revisions are not scheduled to become final until 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which should provide the incoming Biden administration with options to suspend them.
ClearView also said that by separating oil and gas pipes from other utility infrastructure, the Trump administration, which has long supported rules making it easier for energy companies to build projects, may have made “it easier for the Biden Administration to exclude oil and natural gas pipelines from the program.”
Currently, utilities and energy companies can seek a Nationwide Permit that allows their projects to cross several streams.
But without access to Nationwide Permits, oil and gas pipelines would have to seek individual stream-crossing permits.
Environmental groups have long sought the removal of oil and gas pipelines from the Nationwide Permit Program.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino and Sebastien Malo in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis