The ruling reverses a the Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision that held New Jersey could block construction on conservation land. Industry praised the decision; PennEast opponents vowed to continue their fight.
The PennEast pipeline would carry Marcellus Shale gas 116 miles from Luzerne County, Pa., crossing the Delaware River and ending in Mercer County, NJ. The $1 billion project has been strongly opposed by environmental groups, who argue that the line would endanger natural habitat, disturb open space, and risk damaging waterways. It has also met widespread opposition in communities along the pipeline path, where many landowners have refused to lease their land or grant the company the right to survey property.
PennEast pipeline company argues the line will bring needed natural gas to New Jersey and would benefit ratepayers by supplying cheaper fuel. A company spokesperson says it has re-aligned about half the route in New Jersey to follow existing rights of way (primarily overhead power lines), a decision that led the pipeline to cross many state-preserved properties. The company says it’s committed to mitigating any property damage caused by construction, which it plans to begin in 2018.
In January 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted the PennEast Pipeline Co. a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” to build the pipeline, which allows it to take land through eminent domain. FERC said the company has obtained commitments from 12 named customers to buy about 90 percent of the natural gas that would be carried by the line.
It rejected arguments by opponents including the New Jersey Rate Counsel, an advocate for utility ratepayers, who say there is no need for the line.
PennEast is looking to seize 149 of the 211 properties in the path of the proposed pipeline in New Jersey — nearly 70 percent. About 50 percent are preserved lands, more than 20 of which the state owns in whole or in part.
About two-thirds of the route is in Pennsylvania, where state environmental regulators approved water permits in February, 2017.
The project still needs permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission and from New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, which in June 2017 rejected PennEast’s application for a water-quality permit, saying it hadn’t received enough information from the company despite previously giving it more time to complete the application.
The project also needs permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which said in an April 21, 2017 letter that it needed the company to supply more information including the delineation of waterways, and cultural resource surveys in order to process its application. Given the volume of extra information needed, it is “simply impossible” to say when a decision would be made on the permit, the Corps said.
New Jersey wants to block the project, saying the constitution bars the private company from seizing state-controlled land through eminent domain.
PennEast wants the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling preventing the company from exercising eminent domain on NJ state lands.
NJ finds nine potential historic sites in PennEast pipeline’s path. They could be the project’s latest hurdle
A federal judge rejected arguments that approval for the pipeline isn’t final. The ruling affects the properties of about 150 landowners.