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Politics

Chairwoman Maloney Criticizes FERC’s Failure to Protect Landowner Rights

December 11, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – At the December 9 Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties hearing examining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) failure to protect the rights of landowners, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, criticized FERC’s processes which favor pipeline companies at the expense of landowners.

Chairwoman Maloney stated, “There is a growing consensus among landowners, advocates, courts, and even some FERC Commissioners that FERC’s process is not fair to landowners. In 2017, the Center for Public Integrity and State Impact Pennsylvania undertook a comprehensive investigation into FERC. The investigation involved more than 100 interviews and reviews of FERC records for almost 500 pipelines. They found that ‘at every turn, the agency’s process favors pipeline companies.’

“The Subcommittee’s investigation supports this finding. As Chairman Raskin mentioned, the investigation revealed that FERC has a near-100% approval rate for pipelines. At the same time, however, FERC denied every single landowner appeal over the last twelve years.”

The Congresswoman called for a bipartisan solution that would protect landowners by restoring balance and fairness to the FERC pipeline process. 

She also asserted that FERC does not need Congress to act in order to suspend certificates of public convenience and necessity while landowners’ appeals are pending. Once granted, the certificates give pipeline companies the power of eminent domain to take people’s land. She urged the Commission to suspend certificates during appeals, as suggested by Commissioner Richard Glick, and “to leverage all tools at its disposal to restore the proper balance of power between big natural gas companies and individual landowners.”

Maloney’ full opening statement is available on YouTube and her remarks as prepared for delivery are available online: https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/CBM%27s%20Opening%20Statement.pdf.

Background

FERC is the primary federal permitting agency for the construction and operation of all major interstate natural gas pipelines. Landowners face obstacles from FERC at every stage of the natural gas pipeline process: FERC rubberstamps natural gas projects without fair consideration to landowners, favors pipeline companies, and provides insufficient options for landowners to seek recourse against pipeline companies.

On February 19, 2020, the Subcommittee launched an investigation into the use of eminent domain in the construction of natural gas pipelines.  FERC routinely grants pipeline companies “certificates of public convenience and necessity,” allowing them to take possession of private land under the right of eminent domain. 

On April, 28, 2020, the Subcommittee released preliminary findings of the investigation revealing that the natural gas pipeline approval process used by FERC unjustly trampled on the rights of private landowners.

On June 11, 2020, following the Subcommittee’s investigation, FERC announced it would no longer authorize construction activities for natural gas pipelines until the agency acts on the merits of challenges from private landowners and other stakeholders.

On November 20, 2020, the Subcommittee expanded its investigation by requesting information about procedures used to resolve conflicts between landowners and energy companies.

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