Supreme Court Gives PennEast Pipeline the Go-Ahead to Sue for Land Rights
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday awarded the PennEast Pipeline Co. the right to sue New Jersey in order to secure important land-use rights for a 116-mile natural gas project. The justices ruled 5-4, saying New Jersey doesn’t have sovereign immunity since the PennEast project received federal approval. The pipeline is set to carry as much as 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. After the pipeline was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2018, PennEast sued to get access to 40 parcels of land owned or partially controlled by New Jersey. However, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia didn’t allow that, referring to the Constitution’s 11th Amendment that limits the situations in which private companies can sue states without their consent.
Chief Justice John Roberts rejected that argument, writing that PennEast’s lawsuit doesn’t “offend state sovereignty because the states consented at the founding to the exercise of the federal eminent domain power, whether by public officials or private delegatees.” Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch dissented.