For more than three decades, Steptoe has been one of the nation’s leading firms in the field of pipeline regulation. We have represented many of the largest crude oil and refined petroleum products pipeline systems in the United States and Canada, and have handled a number of groundbreaking proceedings in this highly technical area of law. Hailed by Chambers USA for “dominance in the oil pipeline area,” the firm has received the publication’s “Award for Excellence” in the category of Energy: Oil & Gas, and is consistently ranked in “Band 1” for the category in both Chambers USA and Chambers Global.
Our team’s significant breadth and depth of experience includes Steve Brose, Steve Reed, Daniel Poynor, Marc Spitzer, and Monique Watson, who concentrate on economic regulation of pipelines by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Caroline Gaudet, who is a leader in oil pipeline open seasons, transportation services agreements, and other transactional matters; David Coburn, one of the most experienced lawyers in the country in the specialized area of Presidential Permits for cross-border pipelines and other pipeline permitting matters; and Dane Jaques, who focuses on pipeline safety issues and is one of the foremost authorities on National Transportation Safety Board Investigations.
We have handled a broad array of regulatory litigation before FERC and various state regulatory agencies, as well as appeals and other litigation in federal and state courts nationwide, including the US Supreme Court. In addition to standard litigation procedures, we also represent clients in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceedings and in negotiating and implementing complex regulatory settlements – including securing approval from federal and state regulators for such settlements and defending them in court.
We have represented companies that share ownership of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) in almost every phase of the enormous volume of litigation surrounding the development and operation the pipeline – starting with the environmental suits over routing and design, and broad challenges to rates for interstate movements. In recent years, we have also actively participated in the complex regulatory proceedings regarding interstate rates for transporting crude oil to in-state refiners in Alaska, as well as related proceedings concerning connections to the pipeline and capacity allocation.
In the lower 48 states, we provide pipeline counsel in connection with challenges to cost-of-service rates and applications for market-based rates. We also represent the nation’s largest transporter of refined petroleum products with respect to various rate and tariff matters.
Pipeline transactions present unique, complex challenges that frequently require a broad array of legal specialties. We provide counsel on mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures; help negotiate contracts between pipelines and shippers; and create innovative rate structures and tariff approaches.
Our extensive regulatory experience translates into an ability to help clients structure complex transactions to good advantage, including:
- Sales and purchases of pipeline assets
- Joint ventures
- Pipeline leases
- Throughput agreements
- Joint tariff agreements
- Other arrangements specific to the pipeline industry
In addition to commercial and contractual issues, we also counsel domestic pipeline clients related to economic and access regulation by FERC and state agencies, antitrust review by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and tax issues specifically applicable to the various forms of pipeline entities. International pipeline transactions raise a host of additional issues, making the breadth of experience and depth of knowledge possessed by our attorneys an even greater asset.
In addition, we have substantial experience with operational issues affecting pipelines such as pipeline safety and right-of-way.
Our integrated lawyer team has direct experience in every important discipline and works together to efficiently guide our clients through the most complex and challenging pipeline transaction. This comprehensive approach allows our clients to spend less time managing multiple outside law firms, and more time focused on the business issues that drive the transaction.
Our pipeline lawyers are regularly called upon to advise companies with respect to questions of jurisdiction under the Interstate Commerce Act (ICA), compliance with the non-discrimination and anti-rebate provisions of the ICA, interpretation and application of FERC regulations, rate issues, tariff filing issues, pipeline safety issues, and a multitude of other questions related to the management and operation of common carrier pipelines.
We also frequently counsel clients on pipeline regulatory issues in connection with various proposed transactions, including mergers and acquisitions of regulated pipelines, pipeline capacity leases, throughput and deficiency agreements, joint tariff agreements, and pipeline open seasons.
Steptoe's lawyers have extensive experience assisting clients with the strategic development of pipeline projects, including a full-range of land use, permitting, and environmental review issues. Our goal is to reduce the potential for project delay, and to ensure that agency decisions will be defensible if challenged. We advise clients with respect to permitting before a wide range of federal agencies, including the US Department of State, US Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Our lawyers also represent pipeline companies throughout the environmental review process, including strategies to streamline NEPA and related reviews, including Endangered Species Act and National Historic Preservation Act consultations. Our experience also extends to assisting clients with consultations with Native American tribes, including obtaining rights-of-way across tribal lands.
Steptoe’s multidisciplinary pipeline accident team has extensive experience advising clients with respect to crude oil and hazardous liquid releases from pipelines as well as natural gas pipeline and utility explosions. Our team consists of regulatory, enforcement, litigation, and environmental lawyers who have in-depth knowledge of the entire pipeline incident process – from the first critical days of NTSB investigation, cleanup, and compliance with administrative orders issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to the negotiation and execution of a consent decree with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve natural resource damages as well as civil and criminal liability under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The ramifications from a pipeline accident can be dire and costly. Our lawyers’ goal is to manage that risk and minimize liability exposure for our pipeline clients. Our team has handled more than 35 NTSB investigations of which nine were pipeline accidents.
Our energy enforcement and investigations practice advises clients on potential violations of applicable law and defends clients that are the subject of FERC audits and enforcement actions. Our clients include all market participants, including traditional utilities, energy companies, pipelines, commodity traders, hedge funds and financial institutions, as well as their executives, traders, and compliance staff. We also assist clients with internal investigation and compliance audits, and provide extensive counseling related to maintaining compliant and up-to-date internal regulatory compliance programs.
We have extensive knowledge of the specific legal issues facing offshore pipelines, having served as lead counsel in FERC litigation regarding rates for a deepwater pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico and have been at the forefront of litigation regarding the extent of FERC jurisdiction over pipelines on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
Steptoe’s wide-ranging experience with natural gas and other pipeline transactions and litigation includes:
- Representing major pipeline companies in FERC rulemaking proceedings
- Providing advice on the federal approval process for gas pipeline projects
- Assisting companies with FERC standards of conduct compliance
- Representing pipelines in connection with major pipeline incidents
We also represented one of the leading anhydrous ammonia pipelines in the United States, and successfully defended the cancellation of FERC tariffs by various petrochemical pipelines on the grounds that FERC lacks jurisdiction over such movements.
Beyond the US borders, the pipeline team is frequently called upon for representation and advice regarding projects and issues around the world. Since 2009, the practice has been consistently ranked highly in Chambers Global in the category of Energy: Oil & Gas (US).
News & Publications
March 13, 2018
February 15, 2018
January 30, 2018
January 10, 2018
By: Daniel J. Poynor, Millicent W. Ronnland (eds.)
December 6, 2017
November 29, 2017
Pipeline & Gas Journal
November 17, 2017
November 1, 2017
September 26, 2017
April 5, 2017
January 12, 2017
December 1, 2016
October 18, 2016
September 1, 2016
June 8, 2016
September 29, 2015