Land use can be a tricky topic. Whether it is commercial or private property, most property owners want to protect their asset as much as possible. As a result, when a government agency wants to use eminent domain to seize property for a project, it is understandable that it will not sit well with everyone. In fact, the issue could reach a significant scale.
It was recently reported that the state of New Jersey is opposing the eminent domain seizure of state and private property for a pipeline. The PennEast pipeline is intended for moving natural gas from the Marcellus shale and across New Jersey and one other state. The proposed pipeline is expected to span approximately 120 miles. PennEast and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission want to use eminent domain proceedings to obtain the land needed for the pipeline.
The dispute could have far-reaching results depending on the outcome, and the current details available include:
- PennEast and FERC want to place easements on 40 tracts of federal land.
- Because politicians in New Jersey oppose the easements, PennEast has had to file a lawsuit for the property.
- Under the Constitution of the United States, states are immune from facing lawsuits from private companies.
- PennEast claims that because it is working with FERC, a federal agency and not a private company, the ability to sue exists.
- After a district court ruled in favor of PennEast and an appeals court ruled in favor of the state of New Jersey, the situation is now heading to the Supreme Court.
Eminent domain, easements and other land use issues can quickly become contentious. As this case shows, it is not uncommon for lawsuits to result due to opposition to major projects. If New Jersey landowners are facing such issues on a smaller scale, they may want to remember that they could have legal options to addressing the situation effectively.