CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, December 17, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 4606, a bill to authorize the issuance of right-of-way permits for natural gas pipelines in Glacier National Park, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on April 24, 2012, by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and referred to the Natural Resources Committee. On July 11, 2012, the Committee held a mark-up on the bill and reported the legislation, as amended, by unanimous consent.
H.R. 4606 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to issue right-of-way permits to allow access to natural gas pipelines that were located within the boundary of Glacier National Park in Montana as of March 1, 2012. The right-of-way permits would be granted in order to ensure that existing pipeline may continue to be operated and maintained. Rights-of-way issued under the legislation would have to be consistent with right-of-way laws within units of the National park System and could be no more than 25 feet in width. In addition, the rights-of-way would be subject to any terms and conditions that the Secretary of the Interior determines to be necessary.
According to the Committee on Natural Resources, in 1962, the Montana Power Company (MPC) constructed the natural gas transmission line serving Kalispell and the Flathead Valley. Approximately 3.5 miles (of the 118-mile line) is located within the southwestern boundary of Glacier National Park along the right-of-way for U.S. Highway 2. The portion of the line located in the Park was constructed pursuant to a Special Use Permit issued by the National Park Service (NPS) to MPC on April 10, 1962. NPS renewed the permit three times, the last of which expired on April 14, 1990. At that time, NPS determined that it lacked the authority to issue or renew a permit for a natural gas line. The line serves as the sole source of natural gas for the nearly 25,000 Kalispell residents in Montana’s Flathead Valley. The line also serves the Park’s facilities, including NPS headquarters buildings.
According to the Natural Resources Committee, relocation of the line outside the Park is not a viable option. Relocating the line would prove extremely difficult due to the terrain and the resulting disturbance of lands in the proximity of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, which is designated as a Wild and Scenic River, and the Great Bear Wilderness Area. Moving the line outside the Park would require detailed planning, siting and construction permits, which likely would take months if not years to secure and complete. Moreover, relocation costs would be significant. In short, relocation of the 3.5 mile section would be an inefficient, expensive and lengthy process.
According to CBO, the legislation would have no significant impact on the federal budget.