Thursday, November 7, 2013

District court denies immediate pipeline rerouting

On October 24, 2013, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania denied a gas pipeline company’s motions for partial summary judgment and immediate possession for the construction of a replacement pipeline in York County. Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v. 1.01 Acres, More or Less in Penn Tp., York County, Pa., 2013 WL 5773414 (M.D. Pa Oct. 24, 2013). Columbia gas sought to replace and reroute a portion of an existing pipeline that runs through York County because the current location of the pipeline has become heavily populated. In that process the pipeline company was unable to obtain the necessary easements from four landowners, and filed suit against the lands and the owners of the lands, asserting eminent domain. The pipeline company moved for summary judgment on the issue of its right to condemn the easements. The court denied the pipeline company’s motion for summary judgment because the pipeline company failed to establish the proposed reroute was an authorized “replacement” of an “eligible facility,” so as to allow automatic authorization under FERC Guidelines (codified at  18 C.F.R. §§15.203(a)-(b), 157.208(a) & (d)). The court reasoned that it should resolve whether the pipeline company satisfied regulations by deferring to FERC’s interpretations of its own regulations. The relevant interpretations provided automatic approval of reroutes where the new route was “outside but adjacent to” an existing right-of-way, or “spill over from the original temporary workspace or permanent right-of-way.” (Emergency Reconstruction, 68 Fed.Reg. at 4122). Here, the court explained the new proposal created “an entirely new route due to the need to circumvent [a congested area].” 

Written by: Garrett Lent, Research Assistant
Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
Nov. 2013

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