In American Energy Corporation v Rockies Express Pipeline LLC (Case No 09-3864) (pdf), the Court held that the plaintiff coal companies cannot use tort and equitable claims to get a second opinion on issues the Sixth Circuit considered to be pending before the D.C. Circuit in a FERC appeal and an eminent domain proceeding in Southern District of Ohio.

The parties were already involved in two pending cases: (1) an appeal of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certificate that allowed the pipeline to be installed above plaintiffs’ coal mines and (2) an eminent domain action to compensate the coal companies for the loss of their property to the pipeline.

Apparently unhappy with these two proceedings, the coal companies filed yet another case in Ohio state court that was promptly removed. This time, the coal companies sought injunctions that the pipeline company had to develop a plan to prevent disruption and damage to the coal mine operation and sought compensation for such damages under a conversion theory.

The Court rejected this approach, holding that the injunction claims were really a re-litigation of the issues involved in the FERC appeal. The Court considered the conversion claim just a re-labeling of the “loss of use” considerations involved in the eminent domain proceeding. Because the issues were the subject of these other suits, they could not be litigated separately.