The Public Service Commission voted today to approve an application for a Certificate of Industrial Development from Plains Mobile Pipeline, Inc., according to a press release.
The approved project consists of the installation of approximately 2.2 miles of pipeline, reported to cost $14.4 million. Although the approved pipeline lies wholly within Alabama’s borders, it is considered to be an interstate project, limiting the Alabama Public Service Commission’s role in the permitting process, and requiring the Commission to render a decision specific to whether the proposed pipeline would be “in the furtherance of industrial development.”
Place 1 Commissioner Jeremy Oden stated that “after reviewing the testimonies introduced in the Oct. 30 hearing, the evidence demonstrated substantiated that the 36-inch pipeline project does in fact meet the threshold of furtherance of industrial development.”
That hearing came two days after an informal “public proceeding” the PSC held in Mobile in which dozens of people spoke in opposition of the project and the PSC’s limited oversight over oil pipeline regulation in the state.
Oden explained that he based his decision on multiple factors including job creation and retention, continuation of petroleum operations in the area and enhancement of local revenues and taxes, according to the press release.
There are no prior court cases that address the standard of “in the furtherance of industrial development” as set forth in Code 10A-21-2.04, therefore the threshold for disapproving a pipeline project is minimal. At the public proceeding Oct. 28, PSC administrative Judge John Gardner advised the three commissioners not to respond to a question asking them to define how they interpret “in furtherance of industrial development.”
“The PSC is required to follow the laws set by the state legislature, and in this case, Alabama law states that we have no jurisdiction over environmental, public health, or eminent domain matters,” Oden said in a statement. “My fellow Commissioners and I worked to assist the residents in that area by hosting a public hearing in Mobile to explain our role in the process and to guide those with questions to the appropriate responsible parties.”
Oden stated that he and his staff followed up on several concerns vocalized during the public hearing in Mobile, first verifying that Plains made the appropriate filings with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office and confirming that Plains Mobile Pipeline Inc. was a legitimate corporation.