Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of orders related to FERC's efforts to remove existing barriers to the participation of electric storage resources (ESRs) in the Regional Transmission Organization and Independent System Operator markets (RTO/ISO markets), independent, nonprofit companies that manage segments of the federal grid. The court held that petitioners failed to show that Order Nos. 841 and 841-A run afoul of the Federal Power Act's jurisdictional bifurcation or that they are otherwise arbitrary and capricious. After determining that petitioners have standing to bring their claims and that the matters are ripe for review, the court held that because the challenged orders do nothing more than regulate matters concerning federal transactions – and reiterate ordinary principles of federal preemption – they do not facially exceed FERC's jurisdiction under the Act. The court also held that FERC's decision to reject a state opt-out was adequately explained. View "National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied the Commission's and Intervenor's motions to dismiss the petitions filed after thirty days of Commission inaction. The court explained that, before a party aggrieved by an order of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can obtain judicial review, that party must file an application for rehearing with the Commission. Congress directed that, if the Commission fails to act on that rehearing application within thirty days, the application may be deemed denied, allowing the aggrieved party to proceed to federal court. The court held that under the plain statutory language and context of the Natural Gas Act, such tolling orders are not the kind of action on a rehearing application that can fend off a deemed denial and the opportunity for judicial review. In this case, because the Commission's Tolling Order could not prevent the Homeowners and Environmental Associations from seeking judicial review, the initial petitions for review that they filed challenging the Certificate Order in Nos. 17-1098 and 17-1128 are properly before this court for review, and the motions to dismiss those petitions for lack of jurisdiction are denied. The court held that the Homeowners' and Environmental Associations' challenge to the Certificate Order falls short because the Commission did not rely on precedent agreements alone to find that the pipeline would be a matter of public convenience and necessity. Therefore, the court denied all four petitions for review, as well as the Commission's and Transco's motions to dismiss the petitions for review in Nos. 17-1098 and 17-1128. View "Allegheny Defense Project v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that FERC's rejection of Gulf South's application for incremental-plus rates was arbitrary and capricious. The court held that FERC failed to justify the disparity between how materially identical shippers will pay dramatically different rates for the use of the same facilities. Furthermore, FERC's decision violated fundamental ratemaking principles—namely, that rates should generally reflect the burdens imposed and benefits drawn by a given shipper. Accordingly, the court vacated the order denying incremental-plus rates and remanded for further proceedings. The court denied Gulf South's petition for review in all other respects. View "Gulf South Pipeline Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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BGE petitioned for review of FERC's orders arising out of its efforts to apply its "matching" principles to divergences between the timing of deductions for tax purposes and timing for purposes of allocating costs to ratepayers. BGE filed a new rate proposal seeking a net recovery of $38 million and FERC denied BGE's request. FERC concluded that BGE had breached the requirements of Order No. 144 by failing to file for recovery in its "next rate case," which, according to FERC, was BGE's 2005 rate filing. BGE countered that FERC's application of Order No. 144 was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that FERC's orders were not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that FERC reasonably interpreted its regulations and the settlement agreement to mean that BGE simply failed to comply with 18 C.F.R. 35.24 by its next rate case, as required by Order No. 144. The court rejected BGE's argument that, notwithstanding the requirements of Order No. 144, FERC has been more permissive with four "similarly situated" utilities and fails to explain its disparate treatment of BGE's filing. Therefore, FERC's rejection of BGE's tariff filing is a reasonable and reasonably explained application of Order No. 144. View "Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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INEOS, a chemical producer, petitioned for review of the Commission's decision to accept tariff filings without an investigation under Section 15(7) of the Interstate Commerce Act (ICA). The DC Circuit dismissed the petition for review based on lack of jurisdiction, holding that INEOS lacked Article III standing. In this case, INEOS' claim of competitive injury from denial of access to the South Eddy Lateral was too speculative to support standing; INEOS has not established that it would have received access to the South Eddy Lateral more quickly absent the transfer of ownership; and INEOS also failed to demonstrate that harm it has allegedly suffered was fairly traceable to the Commission's acceptance of the protested tariff filings. Finally, the court rejected INEOS' contention that the Commission's determination denied it of the opportunity to challenge Mid-America's disposition of the South Eddy Lateral as an exercise of undue discrimination and affiliate abuse. View "INEOS USA LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Commission's order authorizing Nexus Gas to construct and operate an interstate natural gas pipeline and exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire any necessary rights-of-way. Although the DC Circuit rejected many of petitioners' arguments, the court agreed with petitioners that the Commission failed to adequately justify its determination that it was lawful to credit Nexus Gas's contracts with foreign shippers serving foreign customers as evidence of market demand for the interstate pipeline. Accordingly, the court remanded without vacatur to the Commission for further explanation of this determination. View "City of Oberlin v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied Alon Petitioners' petition for review of EPA's decision not to revise its 2010 point of obligation regulation requiring refineries and importers, but not blenders, to bear the direct compliance obligation of ensuring that transportation fuels sold or introduced into the U.S. market include the requisite percentages of renewables. The court also denied Coffeyville Petitioners' petition challenging EPA's refusal to reassess the appropriateness of the point of obligation in the context of its 2017 annual volumetric rule, which set the 2017 applicable percentages for all four categories of renewable fuel and the 2018 applicable volume for one subset of such fuel, biomass-based diesel. Furthermore, the court rejected Coffeyville Petitioners' claim that EPA arbitrarily set the 2017 percentage standards too high. Finally, the court rejected NBB's separate claim that EPA set the 2018 applicable volume for biomass-based diesel too low. View "Alon Refining Krotz Springs, Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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These consolidated cases concerned the kind of evidence that the Commission deems relevant to proceedings challenging the rate increase of oil pipelines. The DC Circuit vacated the challenged orders, holding that the Commission failed to provide sufficient reasons for changing its policy. Therefore, the court remanded for the Commission to explain or reconsider its decision to take into account post-rate-increase information. View "Southwest Airlines Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of FERC's decision upholding charges assessed by the Southwest Power Pool. The court held that FERC's decision was not arbitrary and capricious and rejected Missouri River's argument that the tariff unambiguously confers carve-out eligibility on its transmission reservation under the 1977 Contract; rejected Missouri River's argument that FERC improperly changed course by relying on extrinsic evidence in this case; and rejected Missouri River's undue discrimination claim. The court also held that there was no reason to reject FERC's conclusion that the congestion and marginal loss charges paid for new services not provided for in the 1977 Contract. Finally, the court rejected Missouri River's argument, to the extent it was not forfeited, that the Pool should be equitably estopped from imposing congestion and marginal loss charges against Missouri River. View "Missouri River Energy Services v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of FERC's orders finding that California and Oregon had not waived their water quality certification authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and that PacifiCorp had diligently prosecuted its relicensing application for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. At issue was whether states waive Section 401 authority by deferring review and agreeing with a licensee to treat repeatedly withdrawn and resubmitted water quality certification requests as new requests. The court held that the withdrawal-and-resubmission of water quality certification requests did not trigger new statutory periods of review. Therefore, California and Oregon have waived their Section 401 authority with regard to the Project. Furthermore, the court disagreed that a finding of waiver was futile. View "Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC" on Justia Law