Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine has written Kevin McIntyre, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking that the agency grant rehearings on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Kaine’s January 5 letter notes that the 2-1 votes on granting permits for the two projects “were most unusual – 98% of FERC orders in 2016 were unanimous. Given that the Commission has a full complement of five members, there is a real concern about whether the divided rulings by a partial Commission fairly reflect the FERC position.”
The Senator’s letter also raised questions about FERC’s use of so-called “tolling orders,” a regulatory device that delays legal challenges from being considered:
“In many cases in which a request for rehearing is filed, FERC issues a tolling order to take more than the allotted 30 days to decide on the request, during which time legal options are frozen but construction may proceed. This suggests that even if an original FERC decision changes upon either rehearing or judicial order, it could be moot if the project is already built and any impacts already felt.”
Currently rehearing petitions are pending before FERC on both the ACP and MVP decisions (see here for more).