Eminent domain, in which government agencies seize land for the public good, tends to be a controversial subject. After all, “public good” can be interpreted very loosely.

For example, developers have successfully argued that they will promote job growth, opportunities and affordable housing with projects involving seized land. But in Virginia, some property owners are testing the limits of eminent domain.

In a lawsuit filed in district court, the property owners allege that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is overstepping its bounds in allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to seize property along its proposed route. The property owners question how being forced to hand over their property to a private, for-profit company building an oil pipeline benefits the public interest.

They’re also raising environmental questions, noting that the pipeline doesn’t just impact property owners but also those living in affected watersheds and the blast zone of potential explosions. Given the growing list of incidents involving leaks, explosions and other issues, this is a valid concern — a pipeline doesn’t just affect the landscape and habitat it slices through, but also the surrounding area.

Their argument: The FERC is violating constitutional law and property rights, and it must stop. Property owners claim the use of eminent domain in this case is “overly broad,” running contrary to the public interest, as well as centuries of legislation and caselaw.

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Truthout – S. E, Smith, Carez – 08/02/2017

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