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June 16, 2016 Practice Points

Update on Sabal Trail Pipeline Dispute: More Bad News for Landowners

The Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida gave short shrift to landowner arguments

by Anne Duvoisin Fisher

As reported in May, landowners brought motions to dismiss the federal condemnation actions brought by the developer of Florida’s Sabal Trail Transmission project challenging subject matter jurisdiction on two basis: (1) that by invoking Florida statutory authority to survey the property sought to be condemned, the developer had selected a state forum and could not now proceed in federal court; (2) that the suit was not ripe because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had been requested to rehear the FERC proceeding which led to the issuance of the FERC certificate authorizing the construction of the pipeline.

The Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida gave short shrift to these arguments.  District Judge Moody denied the Defendants’ motions to dismiss, holding that the developer’s “decision to avail itself of the Florida law right to survey does not constitute a binding choice of forum,” and, further, that absent a stay order by FERC, the FERC certificate was final and binding and that the condemnation proceeding was therefore ripe.

Anne Duvoisin Fisher is with Henson Fuerst in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

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