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Environmental Groups Allege FERC Bias, Call For GAO Probe

A coalition of 165 environmental groups, led by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, have asked Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to launch an investigation into FERC, alleging that the commission is biased toward pipeline companies.

In a four-page letter Thursday, the groups petitioned the lawmakers to ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Specifically, they want the GAO to look into how FERC reviews and approves proposals for natural gas pipeline infrastructure and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities.

"FERC has become a demonstrably biased agency that has become a partner with, rather than a regulator of, the pipeline companies it purports to oversee," said Delaware Riverkeeper Maya K. van Rossum. "In addition, FERC is misusing legal loopholes and ignoring court orders to advance gas infrastructure projects while preventing the public from exercising their rights to judicial review or fair public participation in the process.

"License for FERC's abuse of power and blatant bias is provided by the agency's funding mechanism which makes it an agency funded 100% by the industry it regulates, and is advanced by the revolving employee door that exists between FERC and its regulated community."

Van Rossum alleged that FERC "has approved 100% of the pipeline project proposals that it has reviewed." She also derided the commission's use of tolling orders, which she alleged allows "projects to advance while denying citizens the ability to initiate an appeal in court."

The letter was sent to Sanders and Warren because both sit on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and have the authority to call the GAO to action. Other environmental groups that signed on to the letter include Earthworks, Clean Water Action and the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen told NGI on Friday that the commission had no comment on the letter. Meanwhile, Van Rossum said she had not yet heard back from representatives for Sanders and Warren.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network -- as well as other environmental groups -- is opposed to natural gas pipeline projects in the Delaware River Basin, including Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's (Transco) Leidy Southeast Expansion (see Daily GPIMarch 24, 2015) and PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC's PennEast Pipeline Project (see Shale DailyNov. 20, 2015).

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