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Berkley v. Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20132
Nos. 18-1042, (4th Cir., 07/25/2018)

The Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower court's dismissal of landowners' challenge to FERC's approval of a natural gas pipeline. The landowners argued that the agency's practice of letting pipeline builders use eminent domain authority to take land once their project is approved is unconstitutional because it violates property rights protected under the Fifth Amendment. But the lower court disagreed, dismissing the landowners' claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that their claims must instead be brought through the agency review process laid out in the Natural Gas Act. On appeal, the landowners argued that the agency could not rule on their claims because they were constitutional in nature and challenged the legitimacy of the statute itself. But the appellate court disagreed, concluding that the lower court correctly determined that it did not have jurisdiction to review the matter. Congress has implicitly divested the district court of jurisdiction to hear claims of the kind brought by the landowners, and instead intended for such claims to come to federal court through the administrative review scheme established by the Act. The court therefore affirmed the lower court's dismissal of landowners' claims.