SGA Blog

2015 Technical Conference on Environmental Permitting & Construction Wrap-Up

Nearly 300 environmental professionals in the pipeline industry gathered in San Antonio February 2-4, 2015 for the annual Technical Conference on Environmental Permitting & Construction. This event has been held now for over 15 years and continues to draw a mixed attendees from both the pipeline operators and the service providers and consultants for the industry.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Scott Tinker with the University of Texas – Austin for the opening keynote address at the conference. Dr. Tinker has been actively engaged in the global energy industry and has a passion for bringing industry, acedemia, government, and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) together to find common solutions to today’s energy challenges. Dr. Tinker shared recent research results from the Bureau of Economic Geology at UT Austin for shale gas in the US and the opportunities for the future. Dr. Tinker covered the evolution of shale gas in the US, but also caused the audience to pause and consider the vast opportunity for shale gas around the world. According to Dr. Tinker, shale rock is the most abundant form of sedimentary rock in the world so the only limitation is our ability to fracture the rock to get the resource out of the ground.

Updates were provided by both the INGAA Foundation on various construction specific research and white papers either recently completed or currently under study, and the FERC. The FERC has recently experienced a change in staff within the Office of Energy Projects and has been working hard to align their internal needs with the needs of the industry. The FERC also covered recent and current court cases to emphasize the need for compliance but also to emphasize the importance of engagement of all stakeholders.

Cultural Resources Management (CRM) continues to be a hot topic in the industry and one that everyone is interested in to ensure that our cultural resources efforts are within compliance and that the resources are properly managed. A great panel of experts in the industry covered various aspects of the challenges within the industry from companies such as CCRG, Entrix, SEARCH, and Williams.

LNG exports continues to be an interest with the current abundance of natural gas within the US. Black & Veatch provided an overview of the current markets and the appetite for future export developments. Much has changed in our industry in the last 10 years – and much change is yet in the air when it comes to LNG. Hang on for the ride!

For the third year in a row, the attendees had the opportunity to select two tracts of topics on the second afternoon of the conference. Topics were divided in to “So, You Wanna Turn Some Dirt” and “So, You’ve Got Critters” to align the overall “theme” of the various presentations and efforts of the speakers. Topics for the tracts included Erosion & Sediment Control, Post-Construction Stormwater Compliance, Innovative Solutions for Pipeline Exposures, Landslides & Subsidence Challenges, the American Burying Beetle, Bats, the Lesser Prairie Chicken, Endangered Species Mitigation & Conservation Banking, Managing Historic Properties & Cultural Resource Management, and Overall Site Assessment & Project Planning Tools.

As the industry has changed to more pipeline construction that is non-FERC regulated, so has the content for this event. The third day of the event featured presentations and discussion centered around non-FERC projects and the unique challenges associated with needs for these type of projects. In addition, as the number of projects that require oversight by the FERC have increased, there was a session devoted to the audience learning more about the FERC Third Party Contractor Program. This program has allowed the FERC to better keep pace with the permitting & construction oversight required for FERC regulated projects while also providing assistance to the industry to move projects along to in reducing the backlog of review time.

A few dozen attendees enjoyed a great round of golf on the closing afternoon of the conference at the Canyon Springs Golf Course just outside of San Antonio. The weather cooperated for a nice afternoon followed by a closing dinner for the golfers.

The SGA would like to again thank all attendees for joining us in San Antonio this year. We would also like to thank our event sponsors. These partners in the industry strengthen the networking opportunities at the conference and make events like this possible through their contributions. We look forward to partnerships like this for future events!




Make sure to mark your calendar for our next conference: February 2-4, 2016 in Savannah, GA. More information is available on the SGA event web page.

We look forward to seeing many returning attendees there, but also some new faces from our members and the industry!

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