Stop the Pipeline (STP) filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, to force the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue an order on STP's request for rehearing. FERC habitually grants itself more time than allowed by law, which prevents groups from seeking judicial review of FERC's orders.
"FERC uses delay tactics to keep projects they approve out of court," said Anne Marie Garti, a founding member of STP, and an environmental attorney working with the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc. on behalf of the group. "While the Commission blocks us from appealing their order, they let the Constitution Pipeline Company take people's land through eminent domain proceedings."
FERC issued an order on December 2, 2014, granting a conditional certificate of public convenience and necessity, which the pipeline company relied on to file over 120 complaints in condemnation in the Northern District of New York. STP requested rehearing within thirty days, claiming FERC violated the Clean Water Act, the Natural Gas Act, the National Environmental Policy Review Act, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, but FERC refuses to issue a ruling on it.
"This situation is totally unfair," said Dan and Laura Jean Brignoli, who just received a letter from the company saying it "has been awarded possession of the land rights needed to construct. . . " the pipeline. "They shouldn't be able to take our land until they have the required permits." Like other landowners, the Brignolis were bombarded with reams of legal papers and hauled into court before STP could challenge FERC's certificate in federal court.
"The Natural Gas Act requires parties that are aggrieved by FERC orders to seek rehearing within thirty days, or waive their right to later seek judicial review," explained Daniel E. Estrin, an environmental law professor at Pace Law School and Supervising Attorney of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, which represents STP. "FERC routinely denies requests from members of the public for extensions of time to request rehearing, claiming that it lacks authority to extend the time limit set by Congress. Yet, the Commission routinely grants itself extensions from the thirty-day time limit for it to rule on such rehearing requests, which is found in the very same section of the Natural Gas Act. By delaying its ruling and blocking STP from challenging the certificate of public convenience and necessity it has issued to the pipeline company, FERC thumbs its nose at plainly-expressed Congressional intent while depriving American citizens of their constitutional property rights without due process of law."
Stop the Pipeline is a grass roots organization of landowners and citizens who are committed to preserving the pristine Northwest Catskills and Central New York from the countless negative impacts of the proposed 30-inch, 124-mile high-pressure gas transmission line that would run from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, New York.