National Gas Pipeline Grid. Courtesy Energy Information Administration

National Gas Pipeline Grid. Courtesy Energy Information Administration

Gas Pipeline Application Process Would be Expedited

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) that provides independent analysis of the US energy capacity tells us that there are more than 210 natural gas pipeline systems traversing 305,000 miles of interstate and intrastate transmission pipelines.

The system has more than 1,400 compressor stations that maintain pressure on the natural gas pipeline network and assure continuous forward movement of supplies, more than 11,000 delivery points, 5,000 receipt points, and 1,400 interconnection points that provide for the transfer of natural gas throughout the United States.  The system has 24 hubs or market centers that provide additional interconnections.

Beyond the pipes the system has 400 underground natural gas storage facilities, 49 locations where natural gas can be imported/exported via pipelines, and 8 LNG (liquefied natural gas) import facilities and 100 LNG peaking facilities.

The bill, HR 161 aims to streamline the application process when a gas pipeline is proposed. At its heart the bill directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve or deny a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a prefiled project within 12 months after receiving a complete application that is ready to be processed.

The EIA explains that an interstate natural gas pipeline construction or expansion project takes an average of about three years from the time it is first announced until the new pipe is placed in service. The project can take longer if it encounters major environmental obstacles or public opposition.

A pipeline development or expansion project involves several steps: Determining demand/market interest,Publicly announcing the project, Obtaining regulatory approval, and Construction and testing.To gauge the level of market interest, an open season is held for 1-2 months, giving potential customers an opportunity to enter into a nonbinding agreement to sign up for a portion of the capacity rights that will be available. If enough interest is shown during the open season, the sponsors will develop a preliminary project design and move forward. If not enough interest is evident, the project will most likely be dropped or placed on indefinite hold. Passed House.

HR 161 bill report

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Senate Takes Up Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone

XL Pipeline route

The Senate continued debate on S. 1, the bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project of TransCanada Corp aiming to construct a cross-border pipeline to meet with an existing pipeline in the US to transport oil extracted from Canadian oil sand. The bill is in post cloture status allowing for amendments four of which were laid aside last week.

While Senators may not take up each of the 30-some amendments it looks like their consideration and a vote on passage will be sometime in the week of January 26th.

S.1 bill report

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20 Week Abortion Bill Scrapped

HR 36, a bill providing fines and imprisonment to anyone performing an abortion after determining the fetus is at least 20 weeks into term was pulled from the schedule and replaced with HR 7 a bill prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion.

Rep Christopher Smith R-NJ-4th - Bill Sponsor

Rep Christopher Smith R-NJ-4th – Bill Sponsor

Under the new bill no health benefit plan coming in contact with federal funds may offer abortion as a benefit. The bill keeps exclusions for rape, incest and preserving the life of the mother and continues to allow anyone to purchase such coverage out-of-pocket.

Unlike HR 36, HR 7 does not allow abortions on a fetus under 20 weeks, does not provide penalties or punishment for violating the law, and does not require victims of rape and incest to report to law enforcement before being considered for an abortion. HR 7 Passed the House.

HR 36 bill report

HR 7 bill report

 

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Reductions in the Deficit Continue but Slower than last year, CBO

The Congressional Budget Office reported that “The federal government’s budget deficit was $175 billion for the first three months of fiscal year 2015, $3 billion more than the shortfall recorded in the same period last year, CBO estimates.” The slowdown of the deficit reduction happened despite “revenues and outlays (being) higher (by 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively) than they were at the same point in fiscal year 2014.”

CBO estimated “…that the government recorded a surplus of $3 billion in December 2014—$50 billion less than the surplus in December 2013.” But explained, “….spending for December is always boosted by payments that are scheduled for January 1, New Year’s Day. Without those timing shifts, CBO estimates, the December 2014 surplus would have been only $13 billion less than the December 2013 surplus.

Monthly Budget Review

House Condemns Paris Attacks

While the resolution, H Res 37, follows the traditional form most resolutions follow; detailing the reasons for the resolution, condemning actions and expressing sympathy and support, this resolution had two clauses that are more frequently recurring when the subject of rogue terrorism comes up.

Rep Thornberry (R-TX-13) HASC Chair

Rep Thornberry (R-TX-13) HASC Chair

Two clauses stand out; that Congress “…remains concerned regarding the flow of foreign fighters to and from the Middle East and West and North Africa and the threat posed by these individuals upon their return to their local communities” and “…recognizes the growing threat posed by radical Islamist terrorist groups worldwide and reaffirms the commitment of the United States to the multilateral, global fight against such violent extremists”.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, hosted a closed roundtable….for committee members titled What is the State of Islamic Extremism: Key Trends, Challenges, and Implications for U.S. Policy.  Thornberry said this, “The threat from Islamic extremism is clearly on the rise, and all of us, including our allies,  must understand the stakes. We heard from a panel of experts who understand the nature of this complex threat and how to combat it.  It is clear that America and her partners need a comprehensive strategy to counter this extremist ideology.  The current approach is not working. ” Passed House.

H.Res. 37 bill report

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Join us as we look back in time to what Congress produced in 2005. Republicans controlled the White House and Congress. The deficit was $317 billion and then came Katrina.

For the report on 2004 go here…

 How does Congress get educated on foreign policy matters? One source is the Congressional Research Service report.

Read what Congress reads about ISIS in this December CRS report. Or start with the report summary in the Foreign Affairs section of the Editorial page.