On July 10, 2018, in Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit rejected an environmental group’s claim that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s funding mechanism results in unconstitutional bias in favor of the pipeline industry. The court also rebuffed a due process attack on the Commission’s use of “tolling orders” to avoid automatic denial of rehearing requests after 30 days.

The decision is noteworthy as it represents the latest rejection of similar constitutional challenges to FERC’s operations and practices that pipeline opponents have been raising with increasing frequency. The ruling also highlights the difficulty of bypassing the Natural Gas Act’s administrative rehearing and judicial review process through novel broadside attacks on the Commission’s general practices and procedures. Continue Reading DC Circuit Tosses FERC Bias Claim, OKs Use of Tolling Orders

On January 31, 2018, in proceedings to condemn easements for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia ruled that the pipeline company’s preliminary injunction motions for pretrial possession of the easements would be granted only if it appraised each of the nearly 300 properties at issue.

Continue Reading Virginia District Court Requires Pipeline Company to Obtain Appraisals Before Granting Preliminary Injunctions For Prejudgment Possession of Land

As previously reported on PipelineLaw, the ongoing controversy over an April 2016 decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC or the Department) to deny a Clean Water Act (CWA) water quality certification to Constitution Pipeline Company (Constitution or the Company) for its interstate natural gas pipeline project in Pennsylvania and New York highlights tensions between federal and state oversight of such projects. In the latest chapter of this controversy, the Second Circuit recently denied Constitution’s petition for review of the NYDEC decision, concluding that (1) the Court lacked jurisdiction over the Company’s claims to the extent that they challenged the timeliness of the decision; and (2) the Department acted within its statutory authority in denying the certification, and its denial was not arbitrary or capricious.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Upholds State Veto of Constitution Pipeline Project Via Denial of Water Quality Certification

The Third Circuit held in a highly anticipated recent decision that state actions on water quality-related permits for interstate natural gas pipeline projects are reviewable only in the federal Circuit Courts of Appeals, in accordance with the Natural Gas Act (NGA).  The case, Delaware Riverkeeper v. Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection et al., concerned petitions for review filed by environmental and conservation groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to challenge state permitting decisions for the Transcontinental Pipeline (Transco) Leidy project.  Specifically, the groups challenged the decisions of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PDEP and NJDEP, respectively) to issue water quality certifications under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and, in the case of the NJDEP, other water quality-related permits required under State law.

Continue Reading Federal Appellate Review of State Agency Decisions for Interstate Natural Gas Projects Confirmed

Recent developments in cases brought by Constitution Pipeline Company to challenge New York’s denial of certain water quality authorizations highlight tensions between federal and state oversight of interstate natural gas pipeline construction projects, and the accompanying potential for costly and protracted delays.  Under the scheme of “cooperative federalism” set up by many environmental statutes—such as the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act—even where a natural gas project is under the exclusive federal regulatory jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), it will often require state-issued permits or other authorizations to go forward.  The controversy in the pending Constitution Pipeline cases concerns the extent to which a state may assert authority over discrete aspects of a federally-regulated project in a manner that delays or prevents its construction.

Continue Reading Constitution Pipeline Cases Reflect Tension in States’ Roles in Permitting Natural Gas Projects

FERC recently published a revised draft Guidance Manual for Environmental Report Preparation for review and public comment.  The revised Guidance Manual updates FERC’s 2002 guidance manual on environmental report preparation for projects seeking FERC authorization under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), supplementing the previous guidance as well as adding new sections explaining requirements for environmental report preparation.  This substantial enhancement of the Commission’s 2002 guidance likely reflects increased scrutiny by environmental groups and others of FERC’s compliance with its NEPA obligations in authorizing natural gas and LNG projects.

Continue Reading Draft Revisions to FERC Environmental Report Manual Available for Comment