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Justices Spar Over Pre-Emption as High Court Allows State Law Antitrust Claims to Proceed Against Interstate Pipelines

The recent 7-2 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oneok, Inc. et al. v. Learjet, Inc. et al. ruled that state law antitrust claims brought against interstate pipeline companies by a group of manufacturers and other retail buyers of natural gas are not pre-empted by the Natural Gas Act. The two dissenting voices, Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts, set forth in their opinion that the Court “smudges” the “firm line” drawn by the Court’s prior cases between national and local authority over the natural gas trade. Though the battle over pre-emption and the division of power between federal and state regulators under the Natural Gas Act is not new, this case, as discussed in this alert, revives an issue that the dissent asserts was “settled beyond debate” by Public Util. Comm’n of Ohio v. United Fuel Gas Co., 317 U.S. 456 (1943) and its progeny.

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Dionne Lomax