With U.S. Senate approval last night, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson were confirmed as members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The body has a voting quorum for the first time since former commissioner Norman Bay resigned in January.
Chatterjee and Powelson, nominees named by President Donald Trump, are almost sure to bring a more pro-pipeline stance to FERC. (Bay was a more traditional regulations guy, nominated in 2014 by former President Barack Obama. His parting words on Feb. 3 strikes at the heart of pipeline construction controversy in the U.S. We've embedded that document below.)
For Ohio residents, the quorum represents an opportunity for FERC to certify the proposed Nexus pipeline. Nexus is a 255-mile natural gas pipeline
that will stretch from loamy eastern Ohio to a hub in Ontario. It benefits no Ohio energy consumers, though it would certainly pose anything from a backyard cosmetic nightmare to a public safety risk for many residents in its path.
It's unclear when or how FERC might vote on the Nexus issue, though we'll keep an eye on that.
In the meantime, a group of property owners are tied up in federal court after filing a lawsuit against Nexus and FERC. Their argument: Nexus' easement gathering process violates due process rights and forces an unsubstantiated eminent domain claim on land that is not leased to the pipeline company. The property owners are looking to stop FERC from issuing any certificate on the Nexus plan.
“This complaint has been a long time in development. Our every experience in dealing with FERC and Nexus has been documented and will be brought to bear in this case,” said Paul Gierosky, co-founder of the Coalition to Reroute Nexus.
For now, the case is progressing. The property owners and attorney David Mucklow have opposed Nexus' motion to dismiss the case. A status hearing took place in July, and parties have indicated that a more thorough evidentiary hearing may be in the offing.
While FERC's new members settle in, we'll keep watch for updates on the federal court docket as well.
Here's Norman Bay, with additional context: