Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Trump administration is expected to weigh in on a lawsuit in the next couple of months that questions the legality of eminent domain to build a natural-gas pipeline, following a request from the Supreme Court on Monday. The justices will then decide whether to review it.

The big picture: The dispute, over a 120-mile pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, is one of three high-court battles that represent the culmination of fights over fossil-fuel infrastructure of all kinds that have raged over the past decade as a proxy for a broader debate about climate change and energy.

The state of play: A federal appeals court ruled in September that the developers of the PennEast Pipeline couldn’t use federal law to seize land controlled by the state to build the project, citing the 11th Amendment protecting states’ rights.

  • The court said its conclusion could likely upend how interstate natural-gas pipelines have been built for 80 years. “But that is what the Eleventh Amendment demands,” the court wrote in its September 2019 decision.

The intrigue: This case turns conventional political wisdom upside down.

  • Conservatives would typically side with states’ rights, yet in this case, that would mean opposing a pipeline and business — which usually garner conservative support.
  • Liberals typically side with the federal government, but in this case, that means supporting a fossil-fuel project, something liberals are less inclined to do.
  • Experts say they expect the administration to be more likely to side with the pipeline and federal government, though the decision is still unknown.

The bottom line: The additional review will likely delay the high court’s consideration of the lawsuit — and thus the project itself — until at least next year.

Go deeper: Supreme Court unleashes power over pipelines, natural gas

Go deeper

Oct 6, 2020 - Technology

In Google/Oracle case, Supreme Court will weigh software's future

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Oracle and Google will have their day at the Supreme Court Wednesday, tangling via teleconference in oral arguments aimed at resolving a decade-long battle over whether common interfaces between software programs can be protected by copyright.

Why it matters: The case lies at the heart of how modern software development works, and each side says a ruling in the other's favor will chill innovation. More narrowly, the Supreme Court may settle the question of whether Google owes Oracle nearly $9 billion in damages, as Oracle claims.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Oct 5, 2020 - Economy & Business
Column / Harder Line

In a pandemic winter, dinner comes with a side of propane

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans' plans to socialize outside in colder weather — when COVID-19 will still be a threat to indoor gatherings — are prompting an expensive and environmentally questionable rush on outdoor heaters.

Why it matters: Heating outdoor patios is a big new cost for businesses, and the energy sources are almost always fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus

Marc Short with Katie Miller, Vice President Pence's communications director, in March. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Reuters

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force.