Senate hearing to examine transmission, pipeline systems

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, July 9, 2018

Senators will examine interstate energy delivery infrastructure this week at a time when both natural gas and electricity systems are the subjects of heated debate.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will look at policy issues around pipelines and transmission lines, and whether current investment levels can keep pace with energy demand, said a hearing notice.

The panel will also examine the actions of regulators at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees both interstate pipelines and transmission and has been under a spotlight in recent months.

On pipelines, FERC has made several decisions split along party lines where the Republican majority has voted to limit the agency’s consideration of greenhouse gas emissions during its reviews of natural gas projects.

Pipeline infrastructure also plays into the Trump administration’s plans to subsidize coal and nuclear plants. Part of the justification for a proposal under consideration at the Department of Energy is an argument that natural gas — which is responsible for an increasing share of power generation — is especially vulnerable to cyber and physical attacks.

Grid experts have generally disputed that claim, with some saying that the other topic of this week’s hearing, transmission infrastructure, could make a huge contribution to grid reliability and resilience if it is expanded and upgraded.

“I fear [FERC and DOE] are too distracted by misguided proposals to provide life extensions to old power plants. We’re all wasting our time comparing different dictionary definitions of reliability and resilience when we should be updating policies for transmission,” said Rob Gramlich of Grid Strategies LLC at a May hearing in the House.

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, July 12, at 10 a.m. in 366 Dirksen.