Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A new front emerges in the battle against eminent domain

Marie Cusick photo for StateImpact
Eminent domain attorneys and their clients battling new pipelines in Pennsylvania courts feel they may have a new weapon in the fight against controversial projects like Sunoco’s Mariner East. The recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to toss out industry-friendly provisions of the state’s oil and gas law included eminent domain for gas storage.
Susan Phillips writes for State Impact:
All across the state, private landowners have fought eminent domain takings for pipelines, arguing that the lines do not serve the public good. But they haven’t had much luck in convincing county judges, who have in all but just a few cases, ruled against landowners.
In September, a majority of the Supreme Court ruled that using eminent domain for underground gas storage violated both the federal and state constitutions. The court wrote that the public was not the “primary and paramount” beneficiary, as the state had claimed.
“Instead, it advances the proposition that allowing such takings would somehow advance the development of infrastructure of the Commonwealth. Such a projected benefit is speculative, and, in any event, would be merely an incidental one and not the primary purpose for allowing these takings,” wrote Justice Debra McCloskey Todd for the majority.
The decision was cheered by lawyers like Alex Bomstein, an attorney for the Clean Air Council challenging eminent domain takings by Sunoco Logistics for the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Mariner East 2 will carry natural gas liquids from western Pennsylvania to Delaware County where it will be shipped to Scotland to make plastics.
“Mere economic benefit is not enough,” said Bomstein. “Right now in Pennsylvania nobody is starving from lack of ethane. Nobody is crying in the streets for more butane. There is no apparent public need for these things and that’s demonstrated by the fact that [the gas products] are being exported.”
Read the full story here
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