Pipeline companies in Texas and other states have long had the power to take land under the eminent domain principle that projects to transport energy to heat homes, generate electricity and produce fuels are in the public interest.

But what if the public is in Europe, South America or Asia?

As natural gas and crude oil produced in Texas are increasingly exported, environmentalists, property rights advocates and legal specialists are promoting a novel legal argument to block pipelines, asserting that projects that help ship energy out of the country don’t benefit the American public and should not be eligible for eminent domain takings. In fact, they note, exporting energy may hurt the public’s interest by decreasing domestic supplies and raising costs. Australia, for example, exported so much liquefied natural gas, or LNG, that domestic supplies dwindled and prices doubled for Australian consumers.

“Public use does not include shipping (gas) to China,” said David Bookbinder, chief counsel for the Niskanen Center, a property rights advocacy in Washington. “We’re saying no.”

Read more from L.M. Sixel with the Houston Chronicle here.