Over strenuous opposition from landowner groups, Wright & Talisman assisted Millennium Pipeline Company (Millennium) in obtaining certificate authority from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to construct a compression expansion of its natural gas pipeline system. Our team also successfully defended the certificate order on appeal in the D.C. Circuit and represented the pipeline in a related District Court appeal under the Freedom of Information Act.
The case drew industry-wide attention because of the strong opposition from a resident group, which staged protests at FERC open meetings, protested at other federal and state agencies, and requested extraordinary relief in the courts. Additionally, opponents proposed an alternate site for the project, prompting FERC staff to issue a supplemental notice to take comments on the alternative. After extensive study of the competing proposals, FERC staff’s environmental assessment found Millennium’s proposal more acceptable with certain mitigation conditions. However, the FERC Commissioners split on the certificate order, with three Commissioners approving the certificate and two dissenting. This unusual split decision further intensified industry attention and dramatically raised the stakes in the ensuing appeal at the D.C. Circuit. In addition to petitioning the court for review, the project opponents raised extraordinary requests for stay under the All Writs Act and later under the Natural Gas Act. Wright & Talisman prepared answers and briefs to oppose the petitions for review and all other requests for relief.
Ultimately, the court dismissed the opponents’ petitions and other requests. The case is noteworthy not only for the level of opposition mounted by opponents, but also because the court’s decision contains the most thorough discussion to date affirming FERC’s current policy and procedures for review of certificate applications for new natural gas infrastructure.