Supreme Court Rules Pipelines Can Seize Land From State

( A pipeline company will be allowed to seize land from New Jersey for construction.

Natural gas pipeline PennEast won a case in the Supreme Court this week. It was a narrow 5-4 decision that didn’t split along party lines. Chief Justice John Roberts and conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh were joined by all three liberal justices — Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer — for the decision.

In the majority opinion, Roberts wrote the federal government can deputize private entities to seize state land under the rights of eminent domain. This is what will allow the PennEast Pipeline Company to seize New Jersey land for its project.

New Jersey was arguing that the company violated the state’s sovereign immunity. That edict protects states from lawsuits that include property condemnation.

The majority ruled that New Jersey gave up its right to evade federal eminent domain when it ratified the Constitution. As the opinion reads:

“Although nonconsenting States are generally immune from suit, they surrendered their immunity from the exercise of the federal eminent domain power when they ratified the Constitution.

“That power carries with it the ability to condemn property in court. Because the Natural Gas Act delegates the federal eminent domain power to private parties, those parties can initiate condemnation proceedings, including against state-owned property.”

The dissenting judges wrote that allowing the company to take New Jersey’s land violates previous court precedent. That precedent determined the Constitution doesn’t allow Congress to interfere with the sovereign immunity that states hold.

In the minority opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote:

“Congress cannot circumvent state sovereign immunity’s limitations on the judicial power through its Article I powers. Thus, even in areas where Article I grants it ‘complete lawmaking authority,’ Congress lacks a tool that it could otherwise use to implement its power: ‘authorization of suits by private parties against unconsenting States.”

The ruling means that PennEast will be able to complete the roughly 120-mile natural gas pipeline through the state of New Jersey. The company applauded the Supreme Court’s decision, saying it will ultimately be very good for consumers in the country.

The company’s chair of the board of managers, Anthony Cox, commented:

“This decision is about more than just the PennEast project; it protects consumers who rely on infrastructure projects … from being denied access to much-needed energy by narrow State political interests.”

Cox further said he believed New Jersey “brought this case for political purposes.”

In defending its case, Gurbir Grewal, the Democratic attorney general of New Jersey, said the fight wasn’t over, even despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. He tweeted:

“We’re disappointed by today’s SCOTUS ruling on the PennEast pipeline, but our fight is far from over. I’m proud to continue standing up for our residents & championing environmental protection. I urge the feds to take another look at this harmful proposal.”

While President Joe Biden has been a huge proponent of fixing the climate, he has backed the PennEast pipeline project in court thus far. That’s a little diversion from their normal operations, seeing as the administration immediately killed the Keystone XL pipeline when Biden entered the White House.