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New Doors Open for Fossil Fuels

To power the United States with renewable energy, the nation would require visionary leaders, widespread public support, and billions of Dollar in investment. However, eminent domain law, a much less flashy weapon, will also play a key role in the renewable energy transition. The government’s right to seize private land for public use is known as eminent domain (with fair payment). While eminent domain is divisive — many Americans fiercely protect their private property rights — the fact is that it has transformed the United States into the nation we know today.

There is infrastructure in every corner of the country that would not have been developed without the use of this legal force, from highways to national parks to public buildings like courthouses. Eminent domain has long been a vital weapon for the fossil fuel industry, most recently for natural gas, since it enables corporations to acquire the numerous parcels of land needed to construct large pipeline networks.

As a result, environmentalists have teamed up with landowners to oppose the use of the legal practise for projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, the recently cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline stretching from West Virginia to North Carolina, and the controversial PennEast Pipeline, which would transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

However, legal analysts believe that eminent domain could quickly transform from a major foe to a critical ally for climate activists. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden revealed plans to reduce United States emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. To achieve its renewable energy targets, the country will need a major infrastructure upgrade.

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