On September 11, Judge Denise J. Casper of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued an order dismissing a putative class action lawsuit brought by retail electricity consumers residing in New England against Eversource Energy and Avangrid, Inc., alleging violations of the Sherman Act and various state consumer protection and antitrust laws. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants restricted New England’s supply of natural gas, and, as a result, caused New Englanders to pay nearly $3.6 billion dollars more for retail electricity. Judge Casper ruled that the filed rate doctrine bars Plaintiffs from seeking damages for the alleged violations of federal and state law. In addition, Judge Casper ruled that even if the filed rate doctrine did not bar Plaintiffs’ antitrust claims, those claims would not survive Defendants’ motions to dismiss because Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their claims and for the additional reason that Plaintiffs have failed to state a cognizable antitrust monopolization claim.
As we previously reported, FERC issued a release in February 2018 stating that a FERC staff inquiry revealed no evidence of anticompetitive withholding of natural gas pipeline capacity on Algonquin Gas Transmission by New England shippers. The inquiry arose out of allegations made by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in an August 2017 white paper, which asserted that local gas distribution companies in New England had engaged in practices to withhold pipeline capacity on the Algonquin system in order to drive up gas and/or power prices in the region. FERC staff determined that EDF’s study was flawed and led to incorrect conclusions about the alleged withholding. FERC staff found no evidence of capacity withholding.