PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Sovereign Immunity
  • Date Filed: June 29, 2021
  • Case #: 19–1039
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. BARRETT, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

15 U. S. C. § 717f(h) authorizes Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certificate holders to condemn all necessary rights-of-way, whether owned by private parties or States.

Petitioner obtained a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build a natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Petitioner brought condemnation actions in federal district court under 15 U. S. C. 717f(h), which delegates the federal eminent domain power to certificate holders when they are unable to contract for the required right-of-ways. Respondent objected to suit on sovereign immunity grounds. The District Court found for Petitioner. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, noting that “unmistakably clear” language is required for a state to “waive,” or Congress to “abrogate,” a state’s sovereign immunity to suit. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the state implicitly agreed to waive sovereign immunity in federal condemnation actions “in the plan of the convention.” See Allen v. Cooper, 895 F. 3d 337 (2020); Kohl v. United States, 91 U. S. 367 (1876). State held land is subject to the federal eminent domain power; a power which a state may not shrink or enlarge. Id. at 374. The eminent domain power and the ability to bring condemnation actions are part and parcel, to hold that delegees of the eminent domain power cannot sue states would shrink the power. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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