A new FERC rule issued this week could delay construction of some gas pipelines, but critics argue it fails to protect landowners and is merely a maneuver by the regulatory body to better position itself in ongoing litigation. Currently, FERC allows pipeline companies to begin — and sometimes even complete — construction while repeatedly issuing “tolling orders” to give itself more time to adjudicate opponents’ claims. The new rule will prohibit construction of pipeline projects until it has resolved all appeals from landowners and other pipeline opponents, but would still allow companies to take land by eminent domain and engage in “pre-construction” activities before landowner challenges get a judicial review of FERC’s decision. “FERC’s practice has been that you can cut down all the trees, dig the trench for the pipeline, spray all the herbicides you want, you can do everything but put the pipe in the ground, and all those things FERC describes as ‘pre-construction,'” David Bookbinder, chief counsel of the Niskanen Center, told E&E. Many, including FERC Commissioner Richard Glick, criticized the majority’s retention of “the ‘kafkaesque regime,'” and argued it is a “readily apparent … attempt[]” to influence an ongoing legal challenge to FERC’s use of tolling orders brought by landowners. (Reuters, E&E $, Utility Dive, The Hill, OilPrice, Seeking Alpha)