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Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC v. A Permanent Easement For 0.64 Acres

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 17, 2015

CONSTITUTION PIPELINE COMPANY, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
A PERMANENT EASEMENT FOR 0.64 ACRES, AND TEMPORARY EASEMENTS FOR 1.09 ACRES, IN JACKSON TOWNSHIP, SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, TAX PARCEL NUMBER 092.00-2, 008.00, 000, DENIS M. MCNAMEE, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge

I. Introduction

Presently before the court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 12) and an Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction for Possession of Rights of Way (Doc. 15) filed by the Plaintiff, Constitution Pipeline. After considering the hearing testimony, opposing briefs on the issues of “quick take” and good faith appraisals, this court will GRANT both motions.

II. Background

On December 2, 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Constitution Pipeline Company for the project. (Doc. 1)

On December 29, 2014, Constitution filed a Verified Complaint in Condemnation of Property against the defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1. (Doc. 1).

On January 16, 2015, Constitution filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and a corresponding Memorandum of Law. (Doc. 12 & 14). That same day, Constitution filed an Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction and a corresponding Memorandum of Law. (Doc. 15 & 16).

On February 13, 2015, a hearing was held before this court regarding these two motions. That same day, the court issued an order allowing: (1) the plaintiff to submit a Reply Brief to the defendant’s Brief in Opposition to the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and the Brief in Opposition to the Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction by February 17, 2015; (2) the defendant to submit briefs on “quick take, ” any request for additional hearing, and what, if any, implications a good faith appraisal/offer has on the plaintiff’s right to take property by February 17, 2015; (3) the plaintiff to submit a response to this brief by February 20, 2015; and (4) the defendant to submit a reply to the response by February 24, 2015. (Doc. 25).

On February 17, 2015, the defendant submitted a Supplemental Brief regarding the motions. (Doc. 26). On February 20, 2015, the plaintiff submitted corresponding Reply Briefs. (Doc. 27 & 29).

III. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, the discovery [including, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file] and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and is material if it will affect the outcome of the trial under governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Ericksen, 903 F.Supp. 836, 838 (M.D. Pa. 1995). At the summary judgment stage, “the judge’s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (a court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations). Rather, the court must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007).

To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving party can discharge the burden by showing that “on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party.” In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts, ” but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, if the non-moving party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [the non-movant’s] case, and on which [the non-movant] will bear the burden of proof at trial, ” Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment because such a failure “necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23; Jakimas v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., 485 F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir. 2007).

In order to determine whether a party is entitled to a preliminary injunction, the court must consider: “(1) whether the movant has shown a reasonable probability of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant will be irreparably injured by denial of the relief; (3) whether granting preliminary relief will result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party; and (4) whether granting preliminary relief will be in the public interest.” Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v. 1.01 Acres, 768 F.3d 300, 315 (2014) (quoting Am. Express Travel Related Servs. v. Sidamon-Eristoff, 669 F.3d 359, 366 (3d Cir. 2012). “[O]nce a district court determines that a gas company has the substantive right to condemn property under the NGA, the court may exercise equitable power to grant the remedy of immediate possession through the issuance of a preliminary injunction.” E. Tenn. Natural Gas Co. v. Sage, 361 F.3d 808, 828 (4th Cir. 2004). Although “[e]quity...may not be used to create new substantive rights...when a substantive right exists, an equitable remedy may be fashioned to give effect to that right if the prescribed legal remedies are inadequate.” Id. at 823. The court in Sage explained with regard to compensation that “the Constitution ‘does not ...


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