There are a variety of important concerns that arise in situations of eminent domain; one of these dictates when private land can be taken for public use and how the owners should be properly compensated. A natural gas company recently received permission from a Pennsylvania court to run a liquid natural gas pipeline under the farmland of three Pennsylvania farms. The natural gas pipeline was granted the power of eminent domain to take a portion of the land for the pipeline project. The property owners, however, recently filed an appeal of the court’s decision, which allowed condemnation of their property.
The landowners previously argued that the natural gas company lacks the authority to exercise eminent domain over their property. The property owners and their representative argued that under Pennsylvania state law, a private company, such as the natural gas company, lacks the authority to exercise eminent domain even if there is an element of public use at issue. Pennsylvania courts have ruled in similar cases that the natural gas company is a public utility with the ability to exercise eminent domain.
The proposed pipeline is intended to move natural gas from Ohio through Pennsylvania for shipment overseas from the Delaware River, which the representative for the landowners argues makes it subject to federal and not state laws. According to the natural gas company, the current pipeline lacks the capacity to ship enough liquid natural gas to meet current needs, which makes the proposed pipeline a public need and public benefit. Representatives for the natural gas company previously testified that the proposed pipeline is cheaper and safer than shipping the natural gas via trucks or rail. The representative added that the natural gas will be used by Pennsylvania customers, as well as being shipped overseas.
The rights of property owners are taken seriously by our legal system and property rights can only be infringed upon in certain circumstances. Because of the high level of complexity and importance of property rights and laws, it can be crucial to fully understand property laws and have proper guidance when tackling a concern related to property rights.
Source: Pennlive.com, “Cumberland County landowners appeal pipeline eminent-domain decision to Commonwealth Court,” Steve Marroni, Aug. 2, 2016