On September 10, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (“Third Circuit”) vacated a federal district court order permitting PennEast Pipeline Company (“PennEast”) to exercise eminent domain power under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) over property interests owned by the State of New Jersey.  The Third Circuit found that while the NGA delegates the federal government’s eminent domain authority to private gas companies, it does not delegate the federal government’s separate and distinct exemption from state sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.  After acknowledging concerns that its decision would disrupt the interstate gas pipeline industry, the Third Circuit suggested that in the case of state-owned property, a “work-around” might be for a federal official to file the necessary condemnation actions, and then to transfer the property to the natural gas company.
Continue Reading Third Circuit Rules Natural Gas Companies Cannot Exercise Eminent Domain Power Over State-Owned Property

On September 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) dismissed the City of Oberlin, Ohio’s and the Coalition to Reroute Nexus’s (collectively, “Petitioners”) request to vacate FERC’s authorization for Nexus Gas Transmission, LLC (“Nexus”) to: (1) construct and operate an interstate natural gas pipeline through parts of Ohio and Michigan; and (2) use eminent domain to acquire any necessary rights of way to complete the project (see December 18, 2018 edition of the WER).  The D.C. Circuit agreed with Petitioners, however, that the Commission failed to adequately substantiate its finding that it lawfully credited Nexus’s precedent agreements—under which shippers agree to enter into service agreements once the pipeline is built—with foreign shippers serving foreign customers as evidence of market demand for the interstate pipeline.  As a result, the D.C. Circuit remanded this issue to the Commission, without vacatur, for further explanation of the decision.

Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Rejects Requests to Vacate FERC Authorization for Nexus Pipeline, Remands for Explanation on Use of Foreign Precedent Agreements in Project Need Determination

On August 28, 2019, FERC found on voluntary remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“New York DEC”) waived its authority under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) to either issue or deny Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC (“Constitution”) a water quality certificate for a proposed 125-mile pipeline project from that would stretch from Pennsylvania to New York (“Project”).  Based on the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC (“Hoopa Valley”) (see April 24, 2019 edition of the WER), FERC concluded that Constitution’s agreement with the New York DEC to withdraw and resubmit CWA section 401 certification applications did not restart the one-year statutory deadline for the New York DEC to act on Constitution’s application.
Continue Reading FERC Changes Course, Finds New York Waived Authority to Issue Water Permit for Constitution Pipeline Project

On July 23, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (“Third Circuit”) ruled that state substantive law should be used as the federal standard when determining landowners’ compensation in condemnation actions brought by private entities acting under the Natural Gas Act of 1938 (“NGA”).  The Third Circuit ruling reversed a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (“District Court”) and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Continue Reading Third Circuit Holds that State Law Controls in Pipeline Eminent Domain Just Compensation Dispute

On July 23, 2019, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee announced that the Commission is establishing a new Division of LNG Facility Review & Inspection (“DLNG”), within its Office of Energy Projects, to handle the growing number of complex applications to site, build, and operate liquified natural gas export terminals.  Prior to the establishment of this division,

On June 4, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) upheld FERC’s authorization for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (“Tennessee”) to build a new natural gas compressor station as part of its Broad Run Expansion Project (“the Project”).  Petitioners had argued, among other items, that FERC’s decision to approve the Project violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) by failing to address the reasonably foreseeable indirect environmental impacts resulting from: 1) increased gas production upstream of the Project, and 2) increased gas combustion downstream of the Project.  While the D.C. Circuit rejected the Petitioners’ arguments, it did so on jurisdictional grounds.  After concluding that FERC should have asked Tennessee for information about the upstream and downstream indirect environmental effects associated with the Project, the D.C. Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to conclude that FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously because Petitioners did not argue that FERC violated NEPA by failing to seek out this information.
Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Questions FERC’s Actions, but Ultimately Upholds Approval of Broad Run Pipeline Project on Appeal

On May 6, 2019, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (“Oregon DEQ”) denied a water quality certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) for the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) export terminal and its feeder pipeline, the Pacific Connector, to be located on Oregon’s southern coast.
Continue Reading Oregon DEQ Denies Jordan Cove Water Quality Certification

On May 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) dismissed Otsego 2000 Inc.’s (“Otsego”) petition to set aside a FERC order granting a certificate to Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. (“Dominion”) to construct and operate its New Market Project (“Project”).  Specifically, the D.C. Circuit found that Otsego failed to demonstrate standing to petition the court and that Otsego’s expenditure of resources for litigation was insufficient to demonstrate standing.
Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Dismisses Challenge to Gas Pipeline Project for Lack of Standing

On April 23, 2019, FERC denied Flint Riverkeeper’s and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s (“Riverkeepers”) request for attorney’s fees after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) vacated the certificates of public convenience and necessity (“CPCNs”) FERC issued for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (see March 20, 2018 edition of the WER).  In doing so, FERC found, among other things, that the certificate proceeding at FERC did not qualify as an “adversary proceeding” under the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) for which the Riverkeepers could seek attorney’s fees because: (1) certificate proceedings are excluded from the definition of “adversary proceeding” and (2) FERC is not represented by counsel in a certificate proceeding but rather acts as an adjudicator.
Continue Reading FERC Rejects Request for Attorney’s Fees After D.C. Circuit Vacated Pipeline Certificate

On April 18, 2019, FERC issued a unanimous order, supported by all FERC Commissioners, ruling that the California State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) waived authority to issue a water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1641, in the pending hydropower relicensing of the Middle Fork American River Project (“Project”).  Applying the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s (“D.C. Circuit”) seminal opinion in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC issued in early 2019 (see January 30, 2019 edition of the WER), FERC held that SWRCB’s “active[] participation” in the applicant’s annual withdrawal-and-resubmittal of the license applicant’s request for Section 401 certification since 2012, “on occasion directly requesting the withdrawal and refiling,” constituted an agreement between the applicant and SWRCB that does not re-start the maximum one-year time period for states to act on a request for water quality certification under Section 401.
Continue Reading FERC Holds that California Waived Clean Water Act Authority in Pending Hydropower Project Relicensing