The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been captured. It has been captured by the very industries it is supposed to regulate--particularly pipeline companies. It is an agency that has become so entangled with industry that it is violating the constitutional rights of communities and families across the nation.
Sound unfairly harsh? Well, remember that the United States Constitution requires that federal government agencies like FERC be neutral in the decisions they make. In fact, James Madison’s sacred document declares that they must be free not just from actual bias—but from the mere appearance of bias. FERC fails both tests. Here’s why: alone among independent executive agencies of government with this level of adjudicatory authority, FERC receives full funding from the companies it regulates. That’s like having a basketball referee be paid his salary by one of the teams in the game. No wonder FERC keeps giving slam dunks to the pipeline companies.
- · FERC regularly uses a legal loophole that prevents people, environmental and community protection organizations from being able to challenge pipeline projects before FERC allows them to go into construction;
- · FERC approves pipeline projects, even allowing them to begin construction, before the states have determined whether they will grant Clean Water Act approvals entrusted into their authority. That’s despite that the law that the state determination must come first;
- · FERC allows pipelines to begin construction before federal wetland permits have been granted, thereby undermining their ability to protect natural resources and communities; and
- · When pipeline companies are caught violating environmental and community protection laws, without exception FERC fails to issue penalties as a deterrent to future violations or to issue stop work orders to ensure pollution issues are addressed before construction is allowed to continue.