Energy & Environment

Court rejects green group’s claim of pro-pipeline bias at regulator

A federal court has rejected arguments that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has an unacceptable bias in favor of natural gas pipelines.

The lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia was brought by Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

It is the latest attempt by environmental groups to crack down on FERC, which has wide-ranging authority over interstate oil and natural gas pipelines.

{mosads}Greens have long argued that FERC is acting as a rubber stamp to fossil fuel industries as pipeline infrastructure grows, fueled by sharply rising domestic energy production.

Delaware Riverkeeper’s lawsuit focused on the proposed PennEast pipeline in Pennsylvania, but its bias argument was wide-ranging.

The group argued in its lawsuit last year that since FERC gets its revenue from fees on regulated industries, its budget is “insulated” from usual congressional oversight and pipeline opponents are deprived of their constitutional right to due process.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was nominated by former President Obama, ruled late Wednesday that Delaware Riverkeeper’s complaint did not rise to the level of previous cases that found agency bias.

“FERC stands to gain no direct benefit from the approval of a particular pipeline project,” Chutkan wrote.

“If FERC does not approve any one project, its budget remains the same, with the proportional volumetric charge per gas company being slightly higher. If FERC commissioners also had ownership interests in gas companies, they might individually have a financial stake in granting certificates because it would reduce the proportional charges on their own companies,” she said.

“The connection between the act of approving an individual pipeline and the financial sustainability of the Commission as a whole is simply too remote to create any such bias.”

Tags Barack Obama Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Natural gas pipelines

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