Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Petitioners challenged the FCC's adoption of two limitations to programs that make voice and broadband services more available and affordable for low-income consumers. Petitioners argued that the limitations limited the enhanced Tribal Lifeline subsidy to services provided by eligible telecommunications carriers that utilize their own fixed or mobile wireless facilities, excluding carriers that resell services provided over other carriers' facilities (Tribal Facilities Requirement). Second, it limited the enhanced Tribal Lifeline subsidy to residents of "rural" areas on Tribal lands (Tribal Rural Limitation). The DC Circuit granted the petition for review, holding that the Commission's adoption of these two limitations was arbitrary and capricious by not providing a reasoned explanation for its change of policy that is supported by record evidence. In this case, by adopting the Tribal Facilities Requirement, the Commission's decision failed to consider the exodus of facilities-based providers; did not point to evidence that banning resellers from the Tribal Lifeline program would promote network buildout; failed to analyze the impact of the facilities requirement on Tribal residents who currently rely on wireless resellers; and ignored that the Commission's decision was a fundamental change that adversely affects the access and affordability of service for residents of Tribal lands. Likewise, by adopting the Tribal Rural Limitation, the Commission failed to consider the impact on service access and affordability. Finally, the court held that non-harmless procedural defects also existed. View "National Lifeline Association v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Judicial Watch filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking release of five memoranda that memorialized advice to the President and his top national security advisers when the President was considering whether to order a military strike on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to withhold the requested information and held that the memoranda responsive to Judicial Watch's FOIA request were protected from disclosure under the presidential communications privilege in Exemption 5. View "Judicial Watch, Inc. v. DOD" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of FERC's orders finding that California and Oregon had not waived their water quality certification authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and that PacifiCorp had diligently prosecuted its relicensing application for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. At issue was whether states waive Section 401 authority by deferring review and agreeing with a licensee to treat repeatedly withdrawn and resubmitted water quality certification requests as new requests. The court held that the withdrawal-and-resubmission of water quality certification requests did not trigger new statutory periods of review. Therefore, California and Oregon have waived their Section 401 authority with regard to the Project. Furthermore, the court disagreed that a finding of waiver was futile. View "Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied North Carolina's petition for review of FERC's orders involving the relicensing of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project No. 2197. North Carolina alleged that the license applicant, Alcoa, misrepresented its plans to discontinue the use of project power for industrial production at Badin Works, a major source of employment in the state. The court held that substantial evidence supported FERC's decision and contradicted the existence of any deficiencies or deception in Alcoa's application. In this case, Alcoa disclosed the curtailment of industrial production at Badin Works every step of the way, from its initial filing of intent to relicense, through its various correspondences with FERC, to the license application itself. Furthermore, nothing in the record demonstrated that Alcoa had any nefarious intent to deceive FERC or the public at large. The court also held that North Carolina's recapture proposal lacked any basis in the law. Finally, the court held that, while the loss of jobs caused by the permanent closure of Badin Works did affect public interest, FERC had already accounted for its impact. View "North Carolina v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied SDG&E's petition for review of FERC's declaratory order applying FERC's cancelled or abandoned electricity transmission facilities incentive, 18 C.F.R. 35.35(d)(1)(vi) (Abandonment Incentive), only prospectively, to investments that had yet to occur. Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the court agreed with the Commission's finding that SDG&E failed to establish the requisite nexus between the Abandonment Incentive and costs it already incurred before it obtained the declaratory order. The court held that the Commission's finding was supported by substantial evidence and its approach comported with both the Federal Power Act and the Incentive Rule. Furthermore, the court found SDG&E's several objections unpersuasive. View "San Diego Gas & Electric Co v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, owner of a number of electric generation resources in New England, challenged FERC's adoption of changes to the Transmission, Markets, and Services Tariff proposed by the Independent System Operator for New England (ISO-NE). The DC Circuit held that the parties' dispute may be illusory and thus remanded the record for the agency to sort out what it really means. In this case, at oral argument, counsel for FERC suggested that FERC interpreted the tariff rules in a way that largely squares with Exelon's view of its rights. View "Exelon Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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A member of the public cannot use a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain unrelated individual's tax records without his consent. The District Court affirmed the dismissal of EPIC's action seeking President Donald J. Trump's income tax records. The court held that the Internal Revenue Code's confidentiality protections extended to the ordinary taxpayer and the President alike. View "Electronic Privacy Information Center v. IRS" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the TSA's order stating that it would neither confirm or deny any information about petitioner which may be within federal watchlists or reveal any law enforcement sensitive information. The court held that the petition was filed after the statutory deadline pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 46110, and there were no reasonable grounds justifying her untimely filing. In this case, petitioner had no good excuse, much less reasonable grounds, for her failure to file a petition for review not later than 60 days after TSA issued the disputed order. View "Matar v. TSA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, the former CEO of a Georgia bank, sought review of the Comptroller's decision to assess a $10,000 civil money penalty against him. The DC Circuit upheld the Comptroller's determination that petitioner engaged in unfair and unsound banking practices by allowing the bank to honor repeated overdrafts in the accounts of a frequent customer. However, the court set aside the Comptroller's determination that petitioner caused the bank to file materially inaccurate reports concerning the bank's financial condition. The court held that there were material factual disputes regarding whether petitioner reasonably believed in the accuracy of the call reports. View "Blanton v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a commercial pilot, filed a petition for review challenging the TSA's Known Crewmember Program. Petitioner claimed that TSA lacked statutory authority to select and screen airline crewmembers in the same manner as passengers. The DC Circuit held that petitioner had standing to challenge TSA's policies and assumed, without deciding, that his petition for review was timely. On the merits, the court held that TSA has broad statutory authority to protect civil aviation security and the agency's reasoned decisionmaking should be accorded deference. In this case, TSA has reasonably concluded that a random-screening regime is required to protect airline travelers from the unique threat posed by insiders with privileged access to airport sterile areas. Furthermore, petitioner failed to demonstrate any persuasive evidence that TSA's policies were unauthorized or otherwise impermissible. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "Bonacci v. TSA" on Justia Law