A group of radical leftist groups filed briefs in federal court last Friday asking the court to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision from 2017 that approves and allows the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The court case, before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, is the next phase of the battle over ACP. We name names below for which non-profit agencies should have their tax exemption ripped away because of their overt political activities in opposing ACP.
The radicals are trying to convince the court that FERC should never have approved the project–that the decision-making used by FERC was flawed, that they didn’t consider man-made global warming, and for a host of other sham reasons they’ve recycled for years. The leftist groups were joined by snotty, arrogant, uppity Virginia landowners who don’t want a pipeline to mar their precious horse farm pastures and condo golf courses.
Opponents of the $7 billion Atlantic Coast gas pipeline fired an opening salvo in the D.C. Circuit, claiming the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved an unneeded project with a flawed environmental review and let the pipeline’s developers unconstitutionally seize property for it.
Conservation and landowner groups say FERC’s October 2017 approval of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline running through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, was “striking and inexplicable,” borrowing a phrase from a December Fourth Circuit ruling that invalidated a U.S. Forest Service permit for the project.
The commission failed to show the project was publicly needed, as required by the Natural Gas Act, and failed to take a “hard look” at its environmental impacts, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the groups told the D.C. Circuit in a brief on Friday.
For starters, they say FERC ignored evidence that the pipeline wasn’t needed and instead relied on agreements for the pipeline’s supply that came from utility affiliates of the companies building the project: Dominion Energy Inc., Duke Energy Corp. and Southern Co.
“By basing its finding of market need for the project solely on precedent agreements between the project’s sponsor and its affiliated monopoly utilities — notoriously unreliable indicators of actual demand — FERC abdicated its duty,” conservation and landowner groups said in a brief Friday.
As for its NEPA shortcomings, the groups argue that FERC wrongly rejected existing pipeline systems as reasonable alternatives to building the Atlantic Coast pipeline and as alternate routes that would have avoided crossing two national forests, ignored the pipeline’s impacts on aquatic resources and failed to adequately analyze its downstream greenhouse gas emissions impacts.
“FERC’s superficial analysis of these ‘downstream’ greenhouse emissions in the Final Environmental Impact Statement — in which FERC merely quantified the tons of emissions and expressly declined to consider either their incremental environmental impacts or their significance — failed to satisfy NEPA,” the groups said in their briefs.
And with the Fourth Circuit having vacated the Forest Service’s authorization for the project, as well as approvals by the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Army Corps of Engineers, the groups argued that Atlantic Coast no longer satisfies the conditions of its construction certificate from FERC, which allows them to seize property for the pipeline via eminent domain.
“To avoid the constitutional problem of a taking with no public necessity, the Natural Gas Act must be interpreted as barring the use of eminent domain based on a conditional certificate whose conditions have failed,” the groups said in their brief. “If the court refuses to interpret the statute or the text of the FERC certificate itself to avoid the constitutional problem, then the court must face the problem and hold the takings unconstitutional.”
FERC’s approval of the Atlantic Coast pipeline has also drawn D.C. Circuit challenges from North Carolina utility regulators, as well as the pipeline’s own developers, though they aren’t quibbling with the green light to build the project.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission argued in a brief Friday that FERC approved an excessive rate for Atlantic Coast customers that don’t directly negotiate a rate with the pipeline’s owners. Meanwhile, Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC said in a brief Friday that FERC wrongly rejected its proposal to recoup financing costs for building the project through its rates, meaning it would recover less money than it cost to construct the pipeline.
A FERC spokeswoman said Monday the commission doesn’t comment on court cases. Representatives for Atlantic Coast and the conservation and landowner groups couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
In February, the Fourth Circuit refused to reconsider its invalidation of the Forest Service authorizations for the project. At the time, Atlantic Coast said it planned to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.*
*Law360 (Apr 8, 2019) – FERC Can’t Justify $7B Pipeline Approval, DC Circ. Told
Enviro leftist groups brief filed on Friday:
The list of leftist groups suing FERC, trying to overturn ACP. This is a list of groups you should never, under any circumstances, donate money to. In fact we argue their tax exempt status should be rescinded immediately because they engage in overt political activities, contrary to their charters.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Cowpasture River Preservation Association
Friends of Buckingham
Friends of Nelson
Highlanders for Responsible Development
Piedmont Environmental Council
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation
Shenandoah Valley Network
Sierra Club, Inc.
Sound Rivers, Inc.
Southern Environmental Law Center
Virginia Wilderness Committee
Wild Virginia, Inc.
Groups of landowners opposing ACP include:
Bold Education Fund
Fairway Woods Homeowners Condominium Association
Nelson County Creekside, LLC
Rockfish Valley Investments
Rockfish Valley Foundation
Wintergreen Country Store Land Trust
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