Utilities/Energy: Threat To Remove Natural Gas Lines Gave Rise To Federal Jurisdiction

Monday, May 13, 2013 12:00 am
 
Land Use Law Report, Volume 41, Number 5
 

A district court properly granted a preliminary injunction to prevent a county from removing natural gas lines against the owner’s will because the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act prevents damage to and destruction of interstate gas pipelines.

Facts: Laclede Gas Company (Laclede) provides natural gas service to the St. Louis area of Missouri. It shares non-exclusive easements with St. Charles County, Missouri; Laclede maintains gas lines within the easements that run along two roads in the county. In 2007, the County asked Laclede to relocate those gas lines so that it could complete some planning projects. Laclede agreed on the condition that the County reimburse it for the expense of moving the lines. The County refused and filed a state court action seeking a declaratory judgment that it didn’t have to reimburse Laclede for moving the gas lines at its request. In 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court sided with Laclede.

A few months later, Laclede filed suit in federal court alleging nuisance, among other things. The County moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Laclede moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent the County from interfering with its gas lines. Laclede also amended its complaint to add a claim under the federal Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act (PSA), which criminalizes "knowingly and willfully damaging or destroying an interstate gas pipeline facility[.]" The district court granted a preliminary injunction to Laclede but did not rule on the County’s mo[..]

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