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Total loses bid to move market manipulation case away from FERC

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Total loses bid to move market manipulation case away from FERC

Afederal court agreed with FERC that the commission's case against companies and tradersover charges of natural gas price manipulation should be heard at thecommission and not in the court.

Afinal order by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas,Houston Division, granted FERC's motion to dismiss a complaint filed byTotal Gas & Power NorthAmerica Inc., Aaron Hall and Therese Tran. The court denied a Totalmotion for summary judgment as moot. Senior Judge Nancy Atlas signed the orderJuly 15.

Totaland the two employees had asked the court to find that FERC lacked authority toimpose a civil penalty for violations of the Natural Gas Act and FERCregulations. FERC had argued that the court lacked jurisdiction and that Totaland the employees must argue their case before the commission.

Thedistrict court concluded in a memorandum order that, "absent extraordinarycircumstances," courts should not interfere with administrativeproceedings. "This principle is particularly relevant where the challengeis to agency processes still in their early stages," the court said.(Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, Civil Action No. 4:16-cv-01250)

InApril, FERC asked Total entities and employees to why they should not be heldliable for almost $217 million in civil penalties and forced to disgorge unjustprofits of more than $9 million for the alleged manipulation of gas pricesbetween 2009 and 2012. Total respondedin the FERC proceeding July 12 with a condemnation of the enforcement action.Total said commission staff had failed to present "a single piece ofdocumentary evidence showing that the respondents intended to manipulate anymarket." (IN12-17)