Congress passed the Natural Gas Act (NGA) which permits companies to use the federal government’s power of eminent domain, to make people let them put their pipe on their land.
So PennEast wanted to lay down 116 miles worth of pipe that would meander through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They submitted their paperwork in 2014 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision (FERC). In 2018, after all the reviews and shit, they were granted a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” which basically gave them permission to go forth and conquer.
However, the whiny bitches in New Jersey that apparently want their people to freeze to death in winter, opposed the pipeline in their state.
But with permit in hand, PennEast started all their eminent domain suits against 42 properties owned by the state of New Jersey. Needless to say, New Jersey was like, “WTF?”
Going the creative route, New Jersey was like, “11th Amendment, motherfuckers.” You can’t sue a fucking state in federal court unless you’re the federal government yourself…which you ain’t. We have sovereign immunity, or whatever the fuck you call that shit.”
But a district court was like, “PennEast was granted these powers by the federal government, and therefore they are an agency of the federal government for this purpose, therefore they can sue away. So STFU, New Jersey.”
New Jersey wasn’t done though. They took their same shit argument to the 3rd circuit court of appeals and tried again. PennEast wasn’t going down without a fight, though. They were like, “Why the fuck would congress pass the NGA with that provision, if they didn’t explicitly intend to do this very fucking thing you dumb fucks.”
The 3rd circuit was less impressed with PennEast’s argument, and didn’t apparently give a fuck what congress intended—congress doesn’t get to vote away sovereign immunity.
In a 5:4 non-partisan vote, where Gorsuch, Thomas, Kagan, and Barrett dissented, PennEast came out gloriously victorious. That the NGA does indeed give the federal government the right to delegate the authority to condemn all rights-of-way, whether it’s owned by a person, or a state.
The dissenters argued that Congress’ power to take a state’s sovereign immunity away is quite limited, and there’s no reason that private condemnations should be a justifiable reason for this.