Friday, July 27, 2018

3rd Circuit: Nuns Lose Pipeline Challenge On Procedural Grounds

In Adorers of the Blood of Christ v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, (3d Cir., July 25, 2018), the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a RFRA challenge by an Order of Catholic nuns (the "Adorers") to FERC's approval of a pipeline project. The natural gas pipeline runs through land owned by the Adorers. Developers were authorized to acquire land for the pipeline by eminent domain.  According to the court:
The Adorers object to the use of their land as part of the Project, explaining that their deeply-held religious beliefs require that they care for the land in a manner that protects and preserves the Earth as God’s creation. But despite receiving notice of the proposed project, the Adorers never raised this objection before FERC.
The Natural Gas Act calls for appeals from FERC orders to be filed with the Court of Appeals. The Adorers failed to follow this procedural route. The court held:
The Adorers contend that the plain language of this judicial relief provision grants them a statutory right to assert their RFRA claim in district court. We disagree. The NGA is a detailed statute, setting forth specific provisions on the procedure by which approval and subsequent review of a pipeline project may be attained.
Lancaster Online reports on the decision.