A lawsuit claiming that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is structurally bias in favor of approving natural gas pipelines has been dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit had been brought by the Delaware Riverkeepers Network, arguing that FERC’s funding structure left the agency fundamentally biased toward approving pipelines. The lawsuit focused partially on the PennEast pipeline project in Pennsylvania but also made a broader argument that FERC faces a “structural bias” because its budget is offset by fees and annual charges from natural gas companies.
In her March 22 opinion. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said:
Because the court finds there is no inherent structural bias or appearance of structural bias, Plaintiffs’ purported examples of actual bias, which Plaintiffs offer as “evidence of the Commission’s inherent bias” are not relevant to the court’s analysis. Allegations of actual bias cannot create structural bias where the court determines there is none. The Budget Act on its face does not create a FERC funding mechanism that creates unconstitutional bias for the basic reason that approval of pipeline projects does not increase FERC’s budget. Plaintiffs have not alleged facts upon which relief could be granted.