Why GAO Did This Study
Recent growth in domestic natural gas production, particularly due to increased production from shale, is resulting in an increase in the pipelines needed to transport that gas. Constructing natural gas pipelines requires clearing and maintaining rights-of-way, which may disturb habitat and historical and cultural resources. These resources are protected under a variety of federal, state, and local regulations implemented by multiple agencies. The laws, regulations and stakeholders involved in the permitting process depend on where the pipeline is constructed. FERC is the lead federal agency in approving interstate pipelines, coordinating with federal, state, and local agencies, but FERC is not involved in the approval of intrastate pipelines.
In response to the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, GAO determined (1) the processes necessary to acquire permits to construct interstate and intrastate natural gas pipelines, (2) information available on the time frames associated with the natural gas pipeline permitting process, and (3) stakeholder-identified management practices that may improve the permitting process. GAO reviewed relevant laws and regulations and interviewed federal officials, state officials from a nonprobability sample of 11 states, and representatives from natural gas industry associations and public interest groups.
GAO makes no recommendations in this report. The Departments of Agriculture and Defense generally agreed with the findings, and the other agencies had no comments