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To what degree must federal agencies consider alternatives when building energy infrastructure? A little bit, said the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday in Minisink Residents for Environmental Preservation and Safety v. FERC. Just because an agency considered an alternative, however, doesn't mean it's obligated to use the alternative.

The Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) approved construction by Millennium Pipeline Company of a natural gas compressor station in Minisink, New York -- a tiny town of 4,490 people about a two hours' drive from New York City. Several Minisink residents weren't too keen about a compressor station and advanced another proposal called the "Wagoner Alternative," which involved building a smaller station seven miles outside of Minisink. The proponents of the Wagoner Alternative claimed it would be better suited to the project than placing the station in the largely residential Minisink. The alternative, however, would require replacing seven miles of pipe -- something the original plan didn't.

The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius wasn't the last challenge to the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"); oh, no, not by a long shot. As you'll recall, Chief Justice John Roberts decided that, while the ACA's individual mandate and accompanying penalty wasn't a valid exercise of Congress' Commerce Clause authority, it was permissible as a tax.

Enter Timothy Sandefur, who represented the petitioner in Sissel v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. He made the too-clever-by-half contention that, if the ACA is a tax, then it should have originated in the House of Representatives, as the Constitution requires of all spending bills. Because it originated in the Senate, the law is unconstitutional.

Nice try, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't having it.

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We teased the premise of the Obamacare subsides lawsuits back in October on our U.S. Supreme Court blog, but since then, one of the cases has proceeded all the way through oral arguments at the D.C. Circuit.

Last week, while the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in the contraception mandate lawsuit, the D.C. Circuit was hearing its own oral arguments in Halbig v. Sebelius (the subsidy dispute), with two of the three judges appearing to be inclined to side against the IRS and Obamacare.

Should the subsidies collapse, not only would that kill demand for insurance on the exchanges, but it would also wipe out the employer mandate, which is triggered by at least one employee receiving a subsidy on the marketplace.

FERC Loses BNP Paribas Appeals Case in D.C. Cir.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may need to reconsider its regulations regarding who pays for natural gas storage after the court ruled against it in BNP Paribas Energy Trading GP v. FERC.

It was disputed by BNP Paribas that FERC incorrectly assigned costs for natural gas storage. However, the judicial panel held that FERC failed to show any relevant changes to their historic, proportional-to-usage payment plan.

So how should fees be calculated?

It's been a long and strange road on the way to net neutrality, and the D.C. Circuit has been a key part of that journey.

As of Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to drop any plans to appeal the D.C. Circuit's striking of the Commission's anti-blocking rules, opting instead to do a re-write, The Washington Post reported.

Can we expect the FCC to produce viable net neutrality guidelines this time around?

3 Wacky Ways Presidents Impacted the D.C. Cir.

With Presidents' Day this week, what are some wacky ways presidents have impacted the D.C. Circuit?

Being commander-in-chief of the United States lets presidents wield substantial power over the courts, particularly when it comes to nominating judges. However, sometimes their powers are extended in less conventional matters.

CLE: Joint International Law Conference Set for April

The American Society of International Law (ASIL) and the International Law Association (ILA) are coming together for their first ever joint conference, scheduled for April 7 to 12, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

The joint conference will comprise both ASIL's Annual Meeting and ILA's Biennial Conference. Based on the theme of "the effectiveness of international law," the conference will address such topics as how to maximize the effectiveness of international law, the role of international courts, and the effect of non-governmental actors, according to the ASIL's website.

For ASIL or ILA members, the early bird rate of $405 is extended until February 7. Non-members will pay $565. After February 7, the rate will be $480 for members and $650 for non-members.

A new year brings new email scams and frauds in the D.C. District Courts and state courts.

In addition to emails containing a virus or fake cases, individuals are being targeted with jury scams and arrest warrant scams. The scams tell people that if they don't pay up, they'll be arrested, according to the U.S. District Court for D.C.'s website.

EPA's New Ozone Standards Upheld

The EPA's newest change to ozone standards was upheld by the D.C. Circuit on Tuesday, with both environmentalists and industry heads failing to convince the court to revoke the agency's rule.

In Mississippi v. EPA, the court reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) guidelines for the amount of ozone (O3) that is acceptable under the Clean Air Act. The EPA was being criticized for the standard being too low ... and too high, but the court found their judgment good enough for government work.

So, how much ozone is too much?

While the D.C. Circuit may be withholding any sort of published opinion from us all -- was it something we said? -- oral arguments are going off without a hitch.

As September wraps up and October begins, we take a look at three cases in oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit: a birther defamation suit, a Medicare adjustment case, and the conviction of Bin Laden's publicist.

These oral arguments may be setting the stage for a momentous 2013 - 2014 session.