A federal court in California has dismissed a suit filed by the City of San Francisco alleging that the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) did not properly oversee California’s delegated regulation of pipelines. City and County of San Francisco v. DOT, No. 3:2-cv-0071, (N.D. Cal. 2/28/13). The City asserted that once PHMSA delegated authority to the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission), it had a duty to oversee the Commission’s regulatory efforts and failed to do so. The City asserted that improper Commission actions resulted in multiple pipeline fires that killed and injured persons and damaged property.
The City pursued its case under the federal Administrative Procedure Act, asserting that it gave the court authority to require PHMSA to oversee the Commission’s pipeline regulatory efforts because such efforts had been “withheld” or “unreasonably delayed.” Disagreeing, the court said that the statute does not grant “authority to enter general orders compelling compliance with broad statutory mandates.” The court also found that PHMSA did, in fact, conduct oversight and concluded that “the ultimate deficiency in the City’s complaint is that it is a challenge to how defendants are carrying out their duties, rather than a legitimate claim of a failure to act.”