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 case involves Husky Marketing & Supply Company and Phillips 66 Company, two customers of a crude-oil pipeline, who petitioned for review of orders issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approving the pipeline’s application to charge market-based rates for its shipping services. The petitioners argued that the Commission adopted an arbitrary and capricious definition of the relevant geographic destination market for the pipeline’s services when analyzing whether it had market power.Previously, the matter was referred to an administrative law judge (ALJ) who, after an evidentiary hearing, found the correct destination market was the narrower Wood River market advanced by Husky and Phillips, rather than the broader St. Louis BEA Economic Area advanced by Marathon. Both Marathon and the Petitioners filed exceptions to the ALJ’s decision. The Commission unanimously reversed the ALJ’s decision and concluded the correct geographical destination market was Wood River together with Patoka, Illinois.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the FERC’s orders under the “arbitrary and capricious” standard. The court held that the FERC did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it concluded Wood River and Patoka together, rather than Wood River alone, represent the area in which a shipper may rationally look for transportation service. The court also held that the FERC was not required to perform any additional empirical analysis in this case. Therefore, the petitions for review were denied. View "Husky Marketing and Supply Company v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) approval of a project to expand a natural-gas pipeline from western Pennsylvania to the New York metropolitan area. The petitioner, Food & Water Watch, argued that FERC overlooked environmental issues in approving the project. Specifically, they claimed that FERC's Environmental Impact Statement failed to quantify greenhouse-gas emissions from upstream drilling for the extra gas, to quantify ozone emissions from its downstream burning, and to categorize emissions impacts as either significant or insignificant. Additionally, Food & Water Watch argued that FERC did not adequately consider New York State and New York City laws mandating reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions.The case was reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The lower courts had approved the project, with FERC issuing a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the East 300 Upgrade Project. FERC had prepared a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which estimated the downstream carbon-dioxide emissions but declined to address upstream environmental effects. FERC also declined to characterize downstream emissions as significant or insignificant.The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the petitioner's contentions and denied the petitions for review. The court found that FERC had reasonably concluded that there was too much uncertainty regarding the number and location of additional upstream wells. The court also held that FERC had reasonably explained its decision not to give a quantitative estimate of how much ozone would be produced as a result of the project. Finally, the court found that FERC had amply discussed the significance of GHG emissions and that it was not required to label the increased emissions and ensuing costs as either significant or insignificant. The court also found that FERC had reasonably explained why the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act did not undercut its finding of need for the project. View "Food & Water Watch v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of the Clean Air Act’s Renewable Fuel Standards Program. The program requires the petroleum industry to introduce increasing volumes of renewable fuel into the nation's transportation fuel supply each year. However, Congress overestimated the speed at which domestic production of renewable fuel could expand, leading the EPA to reduce the statutorily required renewable fuel requirements annually.The case was brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by two sets of petitioners. The first set, the Biofuel Petitioners, produce cellulosic biofuels and argue that the EPA's standards are set too low. The second set, the Refiner Petitioners, are fossil fuel refiners and retailers subject to the volume requirements and contend that the standards are too high.The court held that the EPA complied with the law and reasonably exercised its discretion in setting the renewable fuel requirements for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022. The court therefore denied the petitions for review. The court found that the EPA had the statutory authority to impose a supplemental volume for 2022 to make up for volume that should have been satisfied in 2016. The court also concluded that the EPA's new formula for calculating the annual percentage standards was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company LLC v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) certification of the Evangeline Pass Expansion Project, a series of expanded pipelines, compression facilities, and meter stations in the Southeastern United States. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Healthy Gulf, challenged the certification, alleging that FERC improperly applied the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Additionally, the Alabama Municipal Distributors Group, a municipal customer of Southern Natural Gas Company, argued that a new lease from Southern to Tennessee Gas may mean more profits for Southern, so Alabama Municipal should receive a portion of those profits.Prior to reaching the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, FERC had unanimously issued a Certificate Order to Tennessee Gas and Southern, denying all objections. FERC reaffirmed its determination on rehearing. The Sierra Club and Alabama Municipal timely petitioned for review.The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld FERC's certification of the Evangeline Pass Expansion Project. The court found that FERC's certification was reasonable and reasonably explained, as was its decision to deny a windfall to a pipeline owner's existing customers. The court rejected the Sierra Club's arguments that FERC failed to consider the full scope of environmental effects of the project, erred by failing to account for the environmental impact of two ongoing authorizations to export gas, and was required to use the "social cost of carbon" tool. The court also rejected Alabama Municipal's argument that it should receive a future credit on the existing rates it pays. The court concluded that all of FERC's decisions in this case were reasonable and reasonably explained, and therefore denied the petitions for review. View "Alabama Municipal Distributors Group v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The case involves two separate petitions for review of decisions made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to grant extensions of time for the completion of natural gas pipeline projects. The petitioners are Sierra Club and Public Citizen, and the respondents are FERC and the project developers, National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation, Empire Pipeline Inc., Cheniere Corpus Christi Pipeline L.P, and Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC.The petitions primarily contend that FERC was overly generous in finding "good cause" to grant extensions for the completion of the pipeline projects. The petitioners argue that due to changes in circumstances, such as the introduction of New York's 2019 Climate Act, FERC was obliged to reconsider its original findings of market need for the projects.The court upheld FERC's decisions, finding that it exercised its broad discretion reasonably in both cases. It concluded that FERC's determinations of "good cause" were supported by the record, including National Fuel's litigation over water-quality certification and Cheniere's disrupted investment decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The court also found that FERC appropriately decided not to reevaluate its prior findings of market need for the pipeline projects. The court ruled that the petitioners' proposed stricter approach to assessing extension requests was unsupported by the Natural Gas Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, the petitions for review were denied. View "Sierra Club v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was asked to review a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding the regulatory jurisdiction over a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Port St. Joe, Florida. The facility was being planned by Nopetro LNG, LLC, which sought a ruling from the FERC that the facility fell outside of its regulatory jurisdiction under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act. FERC agreed, issuing a declaratory order to this effect, which it upheld on rehearing. Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, sought review of the FERC's decision.However, before the appeal was heard, the FERC informed the court that Nopetro had abandoned its plans to build the facility due to market conditions. In light of this, the court found that the case was moot and dismissed Public Citizen's petition for review. The court also vacated the FERC's orders, stating that since the appeal was moot, it would exercise its equitable authority to vacate the orders at issue. The court noted that no party argued against vacatur and it would further the public interest by precluding any potential reliance on the challenged orders the court lacked authority to review. View "Public Citizen, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In the case between East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc., and others, against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and American Electric Power Service Corporation (AEP), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed FERC's decision regarding AEP's calculation of its 2019 transmission rates. The petitioners, customers of AEP, challenged the calculation, but FERC rejected their claims. The petitioners then sought a review of the agency's decision.The court stated that FERC had correctly interpreted AEP's tariff terms and did not act arbitrarily or capriciously. FERC's ruling was upheld on several points, including the denial of retroactive relief for alleged errors in previous rate years, the inclusion of certain coal-related costs in the 2019 rate, the classification of certain tax credits as prepayments for tax liabilities, and the classification of employee pension and benefit costs as non-contingent liabilities. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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In this case, the District of Columbia sued Exxon Mobil Corporation and several other energy companies, alleging that these companies violated District law by making material misstatements about their products' effects on climate change. The energy companies removed the case to a federal district court, which determined it lacked jurisdiction and sent the case back to a local court. The energy companies then appealed that decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, holding that the case was properly remanded. The Court of Appeals held that the case did not fall under federal jurisdiction because the District of Columbia based its lawsuit on a local consumer protection statute, not a federal cause of action. The energy companies' arguments essentially amounted to federal defenses, which the court held were insufficient to establish federal jurisdiction over the District's claims.The court also rejected the companies' argument that the case could be moved to a federal court under the "artful pleading" doctrine, which allows federal courts to hear cases where the plaintiff has attempted to avoid federal jurisdiction by carefully crafting their complaint to avoid mentioning federal law. The court held that this doctrine didn't apply because the energy companies couldn't rely on federal common law governing air pollution since it had been displaced by the Clean Air Act.Finally, the court rejected the companies' arguments that the case could be removed to federal court under the federal officer removal statute and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The court found that the companies failed to demonstrate a sufficient connection between their actions under color of federal office and the District's suit, and that the District's claims did not arise out of or connect with operations conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf. View "DC v. Exxon Mobil Corporation" on Justia Law

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Vistra Corporation, joined by several other electricity suppliers, petitioned the DC Circuit to review three underlying orders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. These orders involve the sale of electricity in capacity markets. In response to periodic concerns, the Commission has adjusted the market’s features to ensure that it remains competitive.   Vistra and accompanying suppliers (collectively, Petitioners) brought three arguments challenging the discontinuance of the default offer cap. The court explained that the Commission adequately explained its choice to rely on unit-specific review rather than a default offer cap, including that Petitioners’ recalibrated alternative would not have sufficiently mitigated anti-competition concerns. The court explained that the Commission also addressed its accounting of the risks associated with acquiring a capacity commitment, risks that it explained are limited to participation in a capacity market. Finally, Petitioners’ Section 205 rights remain intact. The Commission reasonably interpreted supplier offers in capacity markets to be merely input into obtaining the market-clearing price. These inputs are not the ultimate rates that come out of the market, which are, in turn, subject to Section 205. View "Vistra Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Fairless Energy, LLC (Fairless Energy) contends that it pays too much for the transportation of natural gas to fuel its electric power generating plant located in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania (the Fairless plant). In these consolidated petitions for review of orders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the Commission), Fairless Energy maintains that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and contrary to reasoned decision-making, when it exercised primary jurisdiction over Fairless Energy’s natural gas transportation rate dispute with intervenor Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (Transco), and determined that the appropriate rate was the incremental rate for pipeline expansion under Transco’s Tariff.   The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review. The court held that Fairless Energy fails to demonstrate that either the Commission’s exercise of primary jurisdiction over the Transco-Fairless Energy natural gas transportation rate dispute or its decision regarding the appropriate rate was arbitrary and capricious. The court explained that the Commission reasonably started its evaluation with the 2018 Agreement’s Exhibit C and determined that it unambiguously “did not establish a negotiated rate” because it stated “None” in the location for the specification of a negotiated rate. After reaching this decision, the Commission was appropriately able to decline to consider extrinsic evidence. View "Fairless Energy, LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law