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Supreme Court agrees to hear natural gas manipulation case


From the July 3, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published July 3, 2014

By Robert Varela
Editorial Director
The Supreme Court has agreed to review an appeals court decision allowing antitrust suits under state law against companies that allegedly manipulated natural gas markets during the Western energy crisis of 2000-01. At issue in the case (OneOK v.Learjet) is whether the Natural Gas Act bars customers who bought natural gas in the resale market from filing state antitrust lawsuits challenging price setting in the federally regulated wholesale market.

Industrial and commercial natural gas customers brought the state antitrust claims to recover damages from gas traders’ alleged manipulation of the natural gas market between 2000 and 2002. The customers contended that the traders conspired to give false price information to the publishers of price indices and engaged in wash trades, which artificially increased the price of natural gas in transactions that were outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in April 2013 overturned a district court decision and ruled that, although the Natural Gas Act provides FERC with jurisdiction over practices affecting wholesale rates, it does not pre-empt state antitrust claims that "aris(e) out of price manipulation associated with transactions falling outside of FERC’s jurisdiction." The natural gas traders are appealing that decision.
 

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Vice President, Integrated Media and Communications
Meena Dayak
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Editorial Director
Robert Varela
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Jeannine Anderson
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