OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the developers of the $1 billion PennEast natural gas pipeline have the legal authority to seize land to build the project in New Jersey. The decision was not necessarily along party lines, either. Republican Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh joined Democrat Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor were in the majority.
Conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Clarence Thomas joined liberal Justice Elana Kagan to dissent.
The ruling reverses a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that project developer PennEast couldn’t seize New Jersey-owned land for the pipeline. PennEast’s 116-mile pipeline would transport as much as 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from northern Pennsylvania to New Jersey.
Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the federal government had the right to delegate its power of eminent domain to private parties.
“We are asked to decide whether the federal government can constitutionally confer on pipeline companies the authority to condemn necessary rights of way in which a state has an interest,” Roberts wrote. “We hold that it can.”
“Over the course of the nation’s history, the federal government and its delegates have exercised the eminent domain power to give effect to that vision, connecting our country through turnpikes, bridges, and railroads — and more recently pipelines, telecommunications infrastructure, and electric transmission facilities,” he wrote.
“And we have repeatedly upheld these exercises of the federal eminent domain power — whether by the government or a private corporation, whether through an upfront taking or a direct condemnation proceeding, and whether against private property or state-owned land,” Roberts added.
In dissent, Barrett argued that Congress did not have the authority to grant private suits against states under its constitutional authority regarding interstate commerce.
“Congress cannot enable a private party like PennEast to institute a condemnation action against a nonconsenting state like New Jersey,” she wrote.
Anthony Cox, chair of the PennEast Board of Managers, praised the Supreme Court soon after its decision.
“This decision is about more than just the PennEast Pipeline Project; it protects consumers who rely on infrastructure projects — found to be in the public benefit after thorough scientific and environmental reviews — from being denied access to much-needed energy by narrow State political interests,” Cox said.
On a more national scale, Democrats have made it their mission to go after oil and pipelines.
Joe Biden appears to be more concerned with being “woke” than he does with taking care of the United States energy independence and jobs, and now he is paying the price. More than twenty states are dragging the Biden administration to court over his decision to shut the Keystone pipeline.
When Biden entered the White House one of his first acts was the cancel the permit for the pipeline, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by Donald Trump. The Montana Attorney General’s office noted that former President Obama had concluded that the pipeline would create jobs and help the economy.
A federal judge overrode the objections of the Biden administration and allowed the lawsuit, challenging a president’s authority on issuing cross-border permits to continue.