Category Archives: FERC

Please submit comments about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Restoration Plan! (Docket #CP15-554-009)

Earlier this year, ACP submitted a Restoration Plan to FERC, delineating how the company proposes to clean up the mess its pipeline project had left behind and asking for a year-long extension to the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity so that it can do that work.

There are many problems with the proposed Restoration Plan. In addition to having significant environmental deficiencies the plan does absolutely nothing to restore landowners’ full
property rights.

FERC has opened up a new “Scoping Period” to allow the public to comment on ACP’s
Restoration Plan.

COMMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED NO LATER THAN Friday, April 16, 2021 at 5:00pm.

Friends of Nelson encourages all our supporters to submit comments urging FERC to deny ACP’s Certificate Extension request unless the deficiencies in the current plan are corrected.

To learn more about some of the Environmental problems with their plan, we have prepared this summary. If you want more detail, please check out the letter that the Southern Environmental Law Center submitted to FERC a few weeks ago.

A summary of the Easement Release issue, can be found here as well as some bulleted “ talking points ”. For more detail, please see the extensive comments that the Friends of Nelson recently submitted to FERC.

If you wish to use FERC’s e-Comment process to submit short comments (up to 6,000
characters), go to https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx and fill out the form. FERC will e-mail you a link within a few minutes which you can use to submit your comment.

If you want to write longer comments using the e-File process, and/or you wish to formally become an Intervenor in this proceeding (we especially encourage landowners with easements on their property to become Intervenors), we have put together a detailed Guide to help you do either or both of those things

NOTE: The Docket Number to use (for both eComments and eFiling) is:

CP15-554-009

Oil and Gas companies are making old pipelines the landowner’s problem.

From Popular Science. In the US private residents end up footing the bill to prevent further eyesores and pollution. March 10, 202. 

There are some 3 million miles of natural gas pipelines buried in the US. More than half of all gas transmission lines in the country were installed before 1970, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration. Those pipelines have an average lifespan of 50 years. And it’s not just old pipelines that are set to go out of service. Younger pipelines are also at risk of falling into disuse as the power sector comes to rely less on natural gas in favor of wind, solar and batteries.


No clearer sign exists that that bridge has been crossed than the cancellation of several high profile natural gas pipeline projects in the last year, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Constitution Pipeline. What does that mean for the millions of miles of gas pipelines that are already in the ground?


The most comprehensive data on abandoned pipelines comes from Canada. In the 1980s, the Canadian government began an extensive study of abandoned pipelines, which identified a slew of serious risks to leaving them in place. Sinkholes could form as pipelines corroded and collapsed. Leftover fossil fuels, or the cleaning agents used to clear out lines, could leak out into the surrounding soil or water. Aging lines under lakes or rivers could carry water where it’s not wanted. Empty pipelines could also become slightly buoyant, relative to soil, and rise to the surface, where landscaping and signage marking a pipeline’s path is rarely maintained after it has been retired.


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can order a pipeline company to remove a line that’s not in use, says Carolyn Elefant, an energy and eminent domain attorney, but it doesn’t always do so.


Pipeline companies have ample incentive to leave pipelines in the ground. Removal is expensive and requires heavy equipment, permits and environmental reviews. And pipelines laid before 1980 often have the added feature of an asbestos coating that must be dealt with. It can cost almost as much to get a pipeline out of the ground as it costs to put it in the ground.

Friends of Nelson Asks FERC to Order Release of “Zombie” Pipeline” Easements

Friends of Nelson, a non-profit organization originally formed to oppose the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to release private landowners from the easements it obtained to cross their land.

Friends of Nelson cites statements by Atlantic that it does not intend to voluntarily release the easements, and has not ruled out transferring the easements to another party, saying only “it has no plans to do so at this time.” “These easements represent a severe, continuing, and — in the wake of the project’s cancellation — a totally unwarranted burden on the properties along the Pipeline’s 604-mile route,” the comment letter to FERC says, adding, “With no ‘public use’ justification remaining, FERC must ensure that landowners’ full property rights are re-stored.”

The comment letter says Atlantic and FERC bear joint responsibility for the “zombie easements,” so-called because the easements live on even though the pipeline proposal is officially dead. FERC bears responsibility because it awarded the essential certificate of “public convenience and necessity” that opened the door to Atlantic’s use of eminent domain. Faced with powerful corporations with huge financial and legal resources, most landowners felt forced to grant easements rather than take their chances in court. Atlantic is owned by Dominion Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy Corporation, two mega-corporations.

“By remaining in place even after the cancellation of the project, these easements burden landowners’ ability to use or sell their property—and also their peace of mind, due to the threat that Atlantic could someday transfer the easements to the developer of another project” the comment to FERC states.

Friends of Nelson has researched the more than 250 easements and easement modification agreements that were filed at the Nelson County Courthouse between October 2015 and July 2020. “The owner is prohibited from doing many things within the Permanent Easement,
including, but not limited to erecting structures such as a house or barn, planting
trees and moving earth. These prohibitions continue forever, even though the pipeline will never be built,” the Friends of Nelson letter to FERC says, and it cites specific examples of Nelson County landowners’ agreements that constrain the use of their land.

The Friends of Nelson’s letter to FERC asks the agency to order Atlantic to contact all owners along the pipeline’s entire 604-mile route to inform them that Atlantic will release the right-of-way easement within 90 days of a written request from an affected landowner.

Friends of Nelson also wants FERC to order Atlantic to provide landowners with a written release of the easement, pay reasonable attorneys’ fees the landowners incur in negotiating the release of the right-of-way, and file the release in the land records of the appropriate jurisdiction.

Friends of Nelson’s request was filed on March 3. A full copy of the letter can be viewed here. 

Eminent domain for energy projects could be on its way out.

From Sierra. Reformers Set Sights on Corporate Land Grabs for Energy Projects. February 22, 2021. 


Williams Companies Inc. used the power of eminent domain to obtain an easement for a gas pipeline it wanted to build across private property in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Even though it didn’t have all of its paperwork in order, Williams Companies’ construction crews proceeded to cut down 90 percent of the family’s maple-syrup-producing trees, some of them over 200 years old. The damage done to the maple-syrup operation was a complete waste as Williams later announced it was abandoning the pipeline. “To FERC, the destruction of the Holleran’s maple business is just collateral damage for their real job, which is facilitating whatever the pipeline companies want to do,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, during a December 2020 virtual House hearing titled “Pipelines Over People: How FERC Tramples Landowner Rights in Natural Gas Projects.”


Among its many other responsibilities, FERC is charged with regulating interstate energy projects, including gas pipelines. During the past few years, protracted pipeline battles such as the fights over the Mountain Valley, and Atlantic Coast Pipelines, to name a few—have aimed a new light on the agency and its practices. Now, landowner rights groups and lawmakers from across the country are calling for change.


Raskin’s December hearing builds on an investigation his subcommittee launched early last year looking into FERC’s treatment of landowners. The numbers from the subcommittee’s report are damning: In the past 20 years, FERC has granted 1,021 certificates but rejected just six—an approval rate over 99 percent. In that same period, FERC did not grant a single appeal from a landowner. The report also called out FERC’s routine use of “tolling orders,” which effectively block a landowner from appealing a project by delaying the agency’s response, sometimes for months. Meanwhile, pipeline companies can initiate work even without final approval.


Groups opposing the ACP and other pipelines have challenged FERC’s practices and called for changes to the Natural Gas Act to level the playing field for landowners. Now the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which Raskin chairs, is working in parallel to a host of other efforts to reform FERC.


Lawmakers on both coasts have introduced bills aimed at leveling the playing field for landowners. Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, have introduced the Pipeline Fairness, Transparency, and Responsible Development Act of 2020. Oregon’s two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have each proposed legislation to reform FERC’s processes. All three bills have been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.


Glick, the new chair of FERC under the Biden administration, has regularly dissented from decisions that pushed forward pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal projects, often citing his colleagues’ failure to consider the full climate impacts of projects and advocating for landowner rights.


Changes were afoot at FERC even before Joe Biden took office. On December 27, an omnibus spending bill funded FERC’s long-awaited Office of Public Participation. The new office will give environmental justice groups a voice in FERC proceedings and ensure those who can’t afford legal representation can participate.

A pipeline-loving agency could be key to Biden’s climate plan

From Grist. A new commission chair could change the way FERC regulates energy projects.  February 18, 2021

There’s a saying about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: It’s never seen a pipeline it didn’t like. But the commission’s new chair could make that adage a thing of the past.

Established by Congress in 1977 to regulate the United States’ energy landscape. FERC wields an enormous amount of power, overseeing the nation’s pipelines, natural gas infrastructure, transmission lines, hydroelectric dams, electricity markets, and, by association, the price of renewables and fossil fuels. It’s made up of up to five commissioners — no more than three members of the same party can serve at a time — including one chair, who sets the commission’s agenda.

Historically, the commission has not done a good job of taking climate change and environmental justice into account as it has approved and regulated energy projects across the U.S. A system for accounting for climate impacts isn’t baked into FERC’s structure. That could change as President Joe Biden executes a “whole of government” approach to tackling climate change.

In January, President Joe Biden appointed Richard Glick, formerly the sole Democratic vote on the commission, to chair FERC. Some of Glick’s priorities? Environmental justice and climate change mitigation and adaptation. At his first press conference since being appointed to lead the commission, Glick announced that FERC will create a senior-level position dedicated to assessing the environmental justice impacts of proposed projects. For the first time, the commission will take a look at how developments like natural gas pipelines affect surrounding communities to make sure they don’t “unfairly impact historically marginalized communities”.

Experts say Glick’s influence on the commission will extend far beyond the new environmental justice position. Under Glick, FERC could liberate renewables from “artificial impediments” and allow clean energy to hit the grid at the lowest possible cost. In addition to taking a hard look at MOPR (Minimum Offer Price Rule that keeps energy prices at a level gas generators needed in order to operate in a profitable manner), Glick is expected to develop a more cooperative attitude toward states and their green energy objectives. Glick could also update electricity transmission policy to encourage more transmission infrastructure — the backbone of America’s power system, without which power from power plants wouldn’t be able to flow to customers. System reliability is going to be a priority, too, especially considering the power issues Texas and other states are experiencing right now.

Glick is in a powerful position as head of FERC, but he still has to work with the Republicans on the commission, at least until June, when Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee retires and Biden appoints his replacement.

Reaffirming Property Rights Through Natural Gas Act Modernization Act

Last September, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 4673, “Reaffirming Property Rights Through The Natural Gas Act Modernization Act. 

This bill has a number of noteworthy provisions that provide needed protections for landowners  nationwide facing increased and unfair use of eminent domain for pipeline development. 

If you have not already reached out to your senators to encourage them to consider this bill, please do! The bill has been referred to the committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The best way to keep the bill moving forward is to encourage a hearing!

Please reach out to your Senators today, particularly if they are members of the Commerce Committee. 

Provisions included in the bill are outlined below; 

  • Sec 2 -Establishes that there is No Presumption of Public Interest in the export of Natural Gas.
  • Sec. 4 Ensures Notice to Landowners occurs in a clear and uniform way, and that all impacted
    persons have the information needed to intervene in the process. 
  • Sec. 5 Lays out Requirements for Exercise of Eminent Domain, stipulating that pipeline
    companies obtain all other required state and federal approvals and permits before construction
    proceeds.
  • Sec. 6 is a Requirement to Execute Project Only for Certain Purposes – that is, according to
    the plans provided to FERC with its application. This prevents a bait-and-switch. 
  • Sec. 7 ensures that companies cannot “sit” on undeveloped confiscated land for more than one year without proceeding, or if a project does not go ahead as planned, this provision also ensures that property reverts back to the previous property owner. 
  • Sec. 8 Ensures that in the event eminent domain is exercised, property owners are more fairly compensated
  • Sec. 9 eliminates FERC’s historic practice of using “tolling orders,”