DALLAS TOWNSHIP, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A spokesperson for an intervenor in the proposed construction of the Atlantic Sunrise Expansion gas pipeline has filed a Motion for Rehearing concerning FERC’s certification of the massive construction project.
Without a quorum to consider the rehearing request, the approval process must be halted in place, according to Attorney Carolyn Elefant, spokesperson for Geraldine Nesbitt, the intervenor, one of the property owners most affected by the proposed pipeline routing and construction.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” said Elefant. “For the first time in its history, FERC has no quorum to rule on a motion for rehearing. To file such a motion is the right of affected parties. To proceed with the pipeline without any legal consideration of Ms. Nesbitt’s rehearing motion undermines the rights specifically granted by federal law.”
The abrupt resignation of Norman Bay effective on the same day (February 3, 2017) as FERC voted to approve the certification and routing of the Atlantic Sunrise Expansion pipeline left the regulatory agency with just two members – one less than the three-commissioner quorum required to vote on all major energy infrastructure policies. Rather than conduct a sufficient review of the proposed pipeline, FERC hastily certified Atlantic Sunrise Expansion, which will obviously set up many legal challenges in the future.
Under provisions of the Natural Gas Act, parties affected by FERC certifications have a right to request a rehearing in order to address errors the moving party believes FERC has made.
Elefant said Ms. Nesbitt is seeking to exercise her right to seek a rehearing to address the numerous flaws in FERC’s certification of Atlantic Sunrise. “Without a FERC quorum to allow Ms. Nesbitt to exercise that right, federal law requires that the approval process for the pipeline be frozen in place for all parties,” Elefant added.
The implications of Commissioner Bay’s resignation have adversely affected both landowners and FERC’s own process. In order to avoid a couple of months of delay, the applicant [The Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB) and Williams Partners (NYSE: WPZ)] pressured FERC to hastily certify the Atlantic Sunrise Expansion pipeline on the last hours the agency had a quorum without the appropriate review and consideration. In doing so, FERC completely ignored the impacts to the significant environmental and Native American cultural resources on Ms. Nesbitt’s property.
Now that FERC lacks a quorum, FERC staff is tolling (or delaying the running of the period of time set forth by a statute of limitations) all motions for rehearing until such time a legal quorum can be assembled. This means that FERC staff does not have the authority to properly issue any approval to proceed with construction until the motions for rehearing are resolved, including Ms. Nesbitt’s motion.
“Any construction approval issued without a quorum could be viewed as a purposeful violation of the Natural Gas Act,” Elefant said.
The Act specifically provides that affected parties have the right to request a rehearing and that FERC’s Commissioners must rule on that request before construction can begin. Ms. Nesbitt is concerned that without a quorum of commissioners, the FERC staff will ignore her legal rights and allow construction to begin simply to ensure Williams does not experience any delays.
“We are simply insisting on FERC and its staff obey the law,” Elefant said. “We don’t believe there is any gray area here. FERC can act only with a quorum. You either have a quorum or you don’t have a quorum. And the undisputed fact is FERC does not have a quorum.”
About Geraldine Nesbitt
Geraldine Nesbitt is the owner of The Nesbitt Parcel in Dallas Township, PA. Ms. Nesbitt seeks to protect and preserve extraordinarily unique cultural resources on her property that are highly significant to several Federally Recognized Indian Tribes, which experts believe also qualify as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ms. Nesbitt is also seeking to protect significant environmental habitats on her property that experts state are comparable to, or exceed, with regard to biodiversity, any state park in Pennsylvania.
About The Nesbitt Parcel
The Nesbitt Parcel has been owned and conserved by the Nesbitt family for more than 120 years. Abram Nesbitt, a prominent businessman and philanthropist who funded the area's first hospital in 1912, bought the first section of the current ownership in the 1890s. Eventually, 40 other parcels were purchased and added together to form the current Nesbitt Parcel. The Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB) and Williams Partners (NYSE: WPZ) are enlarging and expanding the capacity of interstate pipelines through what is called the Atlantic Sunrise project. Williams Partners seeks eminent domain powers to impact the land owned by Ms. Nesbitt.
Note: The Nesbitt Parcel is private property and trespassers are subject
©Copyright 2017 by Geraldine Nesbitt. All rights reserved.