Condemnation & Eminent Domain

In a 5 to 4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that PennEast Pipeline (“PennEast”) can use the power of eminent domain to take property rights from the State of New Jersey. The case in question involves a 113-mile natural gas pipeline project proposed by PennEast that requires the company to acquire real estate from private and public property owners in order to install the pipeline. Once the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted its approval for the project, PennEast either negotiated the purchase of the necessary property rights or filed complaints in the United States District Court seeking to take the property rights using the power of eminent domain. The State of New Jersey opposed PennEast’s efforts to use federal courts to take property in which the State of New Jersey has an interest. The United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that PennEast could not use federal courts to exercise the power of eminent domain to seize land from the State of New Jersey for the construction of the pipeline relying on language from the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Eleventh Amendment provides states with certain immunity protections barring private parties from suing states in federal court. The PennEast case raises important issues of state rights versus federal law, and implicates states’ rights of sovereign immunity.

Continue Reading Property Owners to Continue Fight After Setback From United States Supreme Court

Yesterday, the State of New Jersey filed its brief in opposition to PennEast Pipeline Company’s request to the United States Supreme Court (PennEast’s request is known as a “Petition for Writ of Certiorari”) to review and reverse the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision holding that PennEast cannot sue the State of New Jersey in federal court. Also, nine other “friends of the court” (amicus) filed briefs in support of PennEast’s position, mostly associations that support the natural gas pipeline industry.

Continue Reading State of New Jersey Opposes PennEast Pipeline Company’s Request to Involve U.S. Supreme Court

The litigation surrounding the PennEast pipeline continues, with neither side backing down. Although the battle is being fought in multiple courts, two recent orders are worth highlighting.

On February 20, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC’s (“PennEast”) request for an extension of time to complete its 116 mile natural gas pipeline project which originates in Pennsylvania and extends into Mercer County, New Jersey. The original deadline to complete construction was January 19, 2020, and the new deadline is January 19, 2022.

Continue Reading PennEast Pipeline Update: FERC and the U.S. Supreme Court

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals hit PennEast Pipeline Company with another setback on November 5, 2019. The Court of Appeals denied the company’s request for a rehearing of the Court’s earlier decision, which held that the 11th Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits PennEast Pipeline Company from suing the State of New

Does a private pipeline company have the right to file a lawsuit to take private property to build a gas pipeline?

Under the Natural Gas Act, a pipeline company can apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. If FERC issues the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and the pipeline company meets many other conditions, it can obtain the power take private property.

Continue Reading Frequently Asked Questions About Defending Eminent Domain Actions Filed by Pipeline Companies

A few weeks ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted conditional approval of the PennEast Pipeline. FERC is a federal agency which regulates gas pipelines and issued an order to allow PennEast to proceed forward with its project on January 19, 2018. This approval will allow PennEast to file complaints in the United States Federal Courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania seeking to exercise the power of eminent domain to take property rights to install the pipeline.

Since this announcement, the most common question has been: what happens next?

Continue Reading The PennEast Pipeline: What Happens Next?

What is the status of the PennEast Pipeline project?

With the recent confirmation of two new commissioners, a quorum has been restored in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This likely means that FERC will soon begin addressing the approval of natural gas pipeline projects, including the PennEast Pipeline.

The PennEast Pipeline project received its final environmental impact statement from FERC in April 2017.

In the next step in the approval process, FERC will decide whether to issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity under Section 7 of the federal Natural Gas Act. Once a Certificate is issued, as is probable, FERC will convey the power of eminent domain to the PennEast Pipeline project owners. PennEast will then use the power of eminent domain to take private property to construct the pipeline along a right-of-way approved by FERC.

Continue Reading Can Anything Be Done to Stop the PennEast Pipeline?

New Jersey approved a gas tax in 2016 to replenish the New Jersey Transportation Fund. The proceeds of the tax are to be used to make infrastructure improvements throughout New Jersey. In addition, the Trump administration recently announced a policy to support infrastructure projects on a national level.

Continue Reading NJ Gas Tax, Federal Infrastructure Projects, and Eminent Domain

Modification of highway access is one of the most problematic and confusing areas of the law. As a general rule, the government’s use of its “police power” enables it to regulate the state highway system. In New Jersey, the government also has the benefit of the Highway Access Management Act.

In adopting the Highway Access Management Act, the New Jersey Legislature declared: (1) “[t]he State has a public trust responsibility to manage and maintain effectively each highway within the State highway system to preserve its functional integrity and public purpose for the present and future generations” (N.J.S.A. 27:7-90c), and (2) “[t]he access rights of an owner of property abutting a State highway must be held subordinate to the public’s right and interest in a safe and efficient highway.” (N.J.S.A. 27:7-90g).

Often, the government will use these powers to change access to a property and refuse to pay just compensation or damages to the owner. If the change in access is severe but does not rise to the level of an actual taking, the property owner may be left with no recourse. This article provides a brief overview of the process for the modification of highway access.

Continue Reading Modification of Road Access: Do Not Sit on Your Rights!