Federal court dismisses suit charging FERC with bias
This story has been updated with a comment from the PennEast Pipeline company.
A federal court has thrown out a case brought by environmentalists that charged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with bias in pipeline cases. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a federal lawsuit last year, alleging FERC favored industry in disputed pipeline cases. On Wednesday, District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that while DRN had standing to bring the suit, she dismissed the claim that FERC is structurally biased based on its source of funding.
The lawsuit, brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its director, Maya van Rossum, asserted that FERC is incapable of making objective decisions regarding pipeline projects because its funding, set by Congress, is recovered by fees imposed on the industries it regulates, including pipeline companies. DRN argued that “the Commission is insulated from Congressional budgetary oversight,” and therefore, deprives individuals opposed to new pipelines of their 5th amendment right to due process.
But Judge Chutkan rejected that argument, saying that FERC itself and its commissioners do not benefit from individual pipeline projects.
“FERC stands to gain no direct benefit from the approval of a particular pipeline project. 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.”
“The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is an organization that stops at nothing to spread misinformation, scare the public and file ridiculous lawsuits, as validated by a federal court judge who dismissed the lawsuit that was filed last year,” said Kornick. “This is the latest example of opposition groups wasting time, tax dollars and government resources with baseless claims and ridiculous lawsuits.”