Ron Wyden Calls for Speeding Up Pipeline Development

FILE - In this April 14, 2011, file photo, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., speaks to reporters after leaving the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington. Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee says that he, like the public, is being kept in the dark about Justice Department legal advice on when the U.S. may kill American citizens abroad who are suspected terrorists. Wyden says he's been trying for more than a year to get the legal analysis from the intelligence community without success. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)     (National Journal)

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Thursday that speeding up pipeline development is essential to cash in on North America's natural-gas boom, but that expansion must also come with a focus on reducing leaks.

"We are going to work for not just building more pipelines, but we want to make sure we're building better pipelines," Wyden said.

Wyden, speaking at a Bipartisan Policy Center forum in Washington, said methane leaks need to stay below 3 percent to keep the climate impact of natural gas equal to that of coal. A 1 percent goal would be a good target for future pipeline development, he said, citing technologies such as "self-healing" pipes and better leak detection.

Along with pipeline expansion, Wyden touched on another issue that's part of the debate surrounding the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. Some opponents claim fuel transported by expanded pipeline infrastructure will be shipped overseas, inflating prices and leaving North America no closer to energy independence. Wyden called for a "look before we leap" approach, acknowledging "large-scale exports risk spiking gas prices."

Wyden also called for a focus on improving natural-gas-based transportation and addressing development concerns like spills and hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. He said he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would spend the August recess reaching out to colleagues with the goal of finding areas of consensus on natural gas. Stronger policies, he said, will allow the United States to expand its lead in the global "economic Olympics."