In Ohio, private pipeline companies regulated as common carriers or public utilities have the power of eminent domain to “condemn” or “appropriate” private property in certain situations.
It is well known that the power of eminent domain is available to government authorities. But, the reality of modern America is that carefully regulated private companies, not government entities, furnish much of the energy resources and utilities we enjoy everyday. Pipeline companies that transport oil and gas to market are classic examples of private companies that do a job that serves the public welfare. Accordingly, under certain circumstances pipeline companies have the power of eminent domain under both Ohio and federal law.
Federal Law Allows Condemnation for Gas Pipelines in the “Public Interest.”
Currently, control of interstate natural gas pipeline construction is preempted by the federal Natural Gas Act, which assigns regulatory responsibility for almost all aspects of natural gas pipelines to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”).
Under the Natural Gas Act, natural gas companies have the right to condemn property for natural gas pipelines as long as FERC determines that the project is in the public interest and issues a certificate of public convenience and necessity to the company. 15 USC §717f. Once that determination is made, a natural gas company may condemn property in federal district court where the property is located. But despite federal jurisdiction, the Natural Gas Act requires the federal condemnation action to “conform” as closely as possible “with the practice and procedure in a similar …