BG Gulf Coast LNG v. Sabine-Neches, No. 22-40158 (5th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
The Sabine–Neches Waterway is vitally important to the local, state, and federal economies. Despite its importance, sixty years have gone by without much effort to maintain or otherwise improve it. The Sabine–Neches Navigation District (District) set out to change that. Congress covered most of the cost with the District left to cover the rest. The District planned to cover its share through port fees. But the same federal law that led to congressional funding also sets limits on how costs can be passed onto consumers by local entities. Two energy companies sued the District, claiming that the port fees exceeded those limits. The district court concluded that they failed to state plausible claims and dismissed the case.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the statute, properly construed, allows the District to finance its share of the project once a usable increment of the project is completed. Because Anchorage Basin No. 1 has been completed, subsection (a)(1) permitted the District to pass the Ordinance containing the User Fee. Further, Plaintiffs’ argument hinges on a strict reading of “necessary.” But context is needed to determine whether “necessary” means “absolute physical necessity” or merely “conducive to the end sought.” Under these circumstances, it is the latter. Thus, the District can cover more than 25% of the cost with the User Fee proceeds.