House probe: Energy regulators almost always side with gas pipeline companies
A probe conducted by the House Oversight and Reform Committee has found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) consistently sides with natural gas pipeline companies over property owners in certain land disputes.
The committee found that in more than 99 percent of cases over the past 20 years, FERC has decided to give natural gas pipeline companies eminent domain; the move was approved 1,021 times and only rejected six times.
Their investigation also determined that over the past 12 years, when landowners have sought to appeal FERC’s decision to give companies eminent domain over their property, in every case the commission has issued an order extending its time frame to respond. The appeals were ultimately denied every time.
“The deck is totally stacked against landowners who want to defend their family’s land against takeover by private natural gas companies,” said a statement from Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who heads the panel’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
“FERC habitually delays its administrative duties to respond to landowner requests so long that those landowners have no opportunity to have their voices heard. By the time they have the chance to speak up, their land has already been invaded and in some cases destroyed,” he added.
Rep. Chip Roy (Texas), the top Republican on the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties panel, said in a statement on the findings that “we should work to ensure appropriate protections are in place for individual landowners and are balanced with the public benefits of access to abundant, affordable natural gas.”
The results of the investigation were released in a video report published Tuesday by the committee.
In response, FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee said in a statement that the organization “considers natural gas pipeline applications consistent with the Natural Gas Act and longstanding court precedent.”
“The Commission recognizes and is sympathetic to landowner concerns, and we are committed to improving our process. We have taken steps to do just that, with the goal of speeding up our consideration of requests for rehearing so that landowners can have their day in court more quickly,” Chatterjee added.
FERC regulates interstate transmission of natural gas, oil and electricity as well as natural gas and hydropower projects.
The body has historically been viewed as nonpartisan, although President Trump recently broke from tradition by nominating a commissioner to fill a vacant Republican seat but not a vacant Democratic seat. This move angered Democrats, who lamented FERC’s new 3-1 Republican majority.