Eminent domain is an important concept that allows the government to condemn private property for the public good. Without eminent domain, important infrastructure, like highways, railroads, and power lines, would have a hard time ever getting constructed. While eminent domain certainly has an important role to play in keeping the country moving and growing, the idea of the government having the power to condemn an individual's private property tends to provoke lots of controversy, especially when it comes to determining what is actually in the public interest. That debate is being highlighted now in Pennsylvania over controversy surrounding a proposed liquid natural-gas pipeline.

Pennsylvania pipeline

As PennLive recently reported, a liquid natural-gas pipeline that would run across the state has been the subject of a number of court rulings concerning whether the pipeline is protected by eminent domain. A Cumberland County judge recently granted the pipeline eminent domain status, however that ruling has been appealed by landowners whose land will be condemned for the purpose of constructing the new pipeline. The decision is expected to go to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

Opponents of the Pennsylvania pipeline argue that the project should not qualify for eminent domain status. The landowners argued that because the project was a private undertaking it should not be granted eminent domain status, even if an element of the project could be shown to be for public use. Opponents also argue that because much of the liquid natural gas would eventually be exported, the project itself could not be classified as being in the public interest.

Are pipelines in the public interest?

The Pennsylvania pipeline is just one piece of a larger debate surrounding eminent domain and pipelines that is playing out across the country. As Michigan Public Radio recently reported, a contentious issue in this debate is whether such pipelines can entirely be considered in the public interest.

Natural gas is used for home heating, for example, which is why many pipeline projects usually gain eminent domain status. However, natural gas also produces byproducts, such as ethane, propane, and butane. Ethane, for example, is a byproduct that is used to make plastics and whether plastics should be considered in the public interest is definitely a topic that is up for debate. Furthermore, the fact that many of these byproducts ultimately get exported to companies overseas further raises questions about whether the pipelines carrying them deserve eminent domain status.

Real estate law

Eminent domain is one of the most contentious issues in real estate law. For property owners who are facing eminent domain it is important to get legal advice as soon as possible. An experienced real estate attorney can help property owners understand what options they may have, including whether they may be able to fight the condemnation of their property.