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New Jersey pushes back against pipeline company in US Supreme Court

The State of New Jersey is currently battling PennEast Pipeline Co. in the Supreme Court in attempt to block the construction of a new pipeline.

PennEast obtained the necessary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) approvals to construct its planned 120-mile pipeline spanning from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Pursuant to the Natural Gas Act, these approvals come along with the ability to exercise “eminent domain” over the property needed to build the pipeline. This means that the authorized pipeline company has the right to condemn the property needed as long as they provide just compensation, a right typically reserved for the government.

The State of New Jersey argues that the statutory authority given to private parties by the Natural Gas Act cannot override the sovereign immunity of the states. Sovereign immunity refers to the fact that the government, in this case the State of New Jersey, cannot be sued by a private party without its consent (pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment). Included in the 42 properties PennEast is attempting to condemn in relation to this new pipeline are state forests and other state lands reserved for agriculture, recreational, and conservational uses. [1] New Jersey argues that these lands cannot be taken through a condemnation action that the State has not consented to.

In support of New Jersey come briefs submitted by a coalition of 19 other states as well as the Council of State Governments, and environmental groups. [1] They argue that giving private companies this right is a dangerous affront to the constitutional protection on sovereign immunity. [1] Numerous energy companies and other interest groups have submitted briefs in support of PennEast. These companies argue that New Jersey and its supporters are challenging decades-old industry standard and that the right of private parties to exercise their authority over state lands is implicit in the Natural Gas Act. [1] Oral arguments were just heard on April 28 and a decision is still pending. You can keep updated on the status of this case here: https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/penneast-pipeline-co-v-new-jersey/

Source: [1] https://www.enr.com/articles/51520-update-pipeline-land-seizure-is-unconstitutional-nj-and-19-states-tells-high-court

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