On January 29, 2019, over 180 environmental organizations, including Friends of Nelson, wrote a letter to members of Congress requesting a congressional hearing into the approval process for interstate gas pipelines. The letter argued that the Federal Energy Regulator Commission (FERC) approves nearly all proposed pipelines, abuses its eminent domain authority, relies on erroneous data when evaluating whether to allow pipeline companies to begin construction. In requesting a congressional hearing, the letter lists many of the misuses of FERC’s Natural Gas Act (NGA) authority:
- Allowing premature use of the legal construct of eminent domain to seize property rights, even before a pipeline project has met all legal obligations, thereby allowing the taking of private property for a pipeline that may never be constructed (which has in fact happened – once taken, the property rights do not return even if approvals for a pipeline are subsequently denied);
- Stripping people of their legal and due process rights to challenge FERC approval of natural gas pipelines and infrastructure before the power of eminent domain is used to seize their property rights, and construction is allowed to proceed, thereby inflicting irreparable harm on communities and the environment;
- Undermining the legal authority of states to determine whether natural gas pipelines and infrastructure would violate state water quality standards and should be approved, denied or modified prior to construction;
- Undermining the authority of other federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to determine if the project would comply with federal law under their jurisdiction and therefore should be approved, denied or modified before FERC approval is granted and construction started;
- Advancing pipeline projects based on demonstrably false and misleading facts, claims and “data”; i.e., FERC approval is granted despite demonstrated proof (such as legitimate scientific data, photographs, agency documentation, and factual proof) that information provided by the pipeline company, key to its proposal, is false, misleading and/or intentionally not provided;
- Advancing pipeline projects without genuine demonstration of need, instead allowing companies to claim “need” simply by producing contracts with affiliates of the pipeline company itself and/or asserting the project is needed in order to enhance a company’s private profits or competitive edge;
- Allowing third party contractors with demonstrated conflicts of interest and an obvious vested interest in the outcome to lead review of the proposed project. This includes contractors who are working for the company at issue on other or related projects, and/or those working for the pipeline companies on directly related projects that will be affected by the actions and recommendations of the contractor; and
- Allowing FERC employees and Commissioners with demonstrated conflicts of interest, including financial, to work on project review and decision making for proposed pipeline projects.
Read the full letter here.