The PennEast pipeline is an unnecessary infrastructure project that will only benefit the companies who own it, and whose costs will be borne by residents in the area. In response to the PennEast threat, we formed HALT PennEast. We are average citizens who have joined forces to stop this pipeline.
UPDATES ON TWO IMPORTANT COURT CASES FROM THIS WEEK
First, an update on the Supreme Court case is below. We have included information and a statement from Tom Gilbert with NJCF. Second, is an update regarding the tolling orders case. We have a big win to report! Details are below after the Supreme Court Update.
Supreme Court Update and NJCF statement – more delays
Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order seeking input from the U.S. Solicitor General on PennEast’s petition that the Court review the Third Circuit decision denying them the right to seize state lands.
This is one of the possibilities that had been anticipated. The Solicitor General will set the timeline for review, but it is anticipated that after hearing from the SG, the Supreme Court could decide whether or not to take the case this fall.
If the court does agree to hear the case, actual proceedings wouldn’t be until next term/year.
In practical terms – more delays….
“This action doesn’t change the fact that there is no reason under the law for the Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit’s unanimous decision,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director for NJ Conservation Foundation. “We continue to believe that decision will prevail in the end, and PennEast will be prohibited from seizing state-owned lands in order to construct its unneeded pipeline.”
Our fight continues at the Supreme Court The latest turn extends the process and the case. We are also examining other short term actions PennEast may try to do and will keep you informed.
Tolling Orders Update – a big win!
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) issued a decision by the full court today stating that the Natural Gas Act (NGA) does not allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue tolling orders.
In practical terms :
FERC can no longer use tolling orders in pipeline projects going forward.
This applies to any future order. For example, if FERC makes a final decision about Phase II. FERC must respond to a request for rehearing within 30 days. If they do not, then we can file a petition for review in a circuit court of appeals.
We were advised that, Homeowners no longer have to wait for a final order from FERC to seek judicial relief.
We hope your summer is going well. We look forward to seeing you in person as soon as we can.
Excerpt:“PennEast has created a new project that they are calling Phase 1. FERC has accepted the application and granted a new docket number (CP20-47). This is a project to build 68 miles of the original route through PA. This is a PA-only pipeline that follows the originally proposed route but ends in Bethlehem Twp. where it will connect to the Adelphia Gateway Project which is another pipeline project with a separate docket number (CP18-46).”
Excerpt: “As noted in last month’s report, PennEast Pipeline has asked FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) for an extension of two more years in which to get the project operational. FERC has not yet scheduled a hearing on the extension request.“
Excerpt: “Today, the PennEast Pipeline asked FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) for an “extension of time.” […] If they manage to complete the pipeline by 2022, it will be five years behind schedule.“
Excerpt: “Yesterday, the Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons (9,120 barrels) of oil into wetlands in North Dakota. The leak is already the eighth-largest pipeline oil spill of the last decade.”
“We hope that everyone will share these findings with the public, with your members, and with decision-makers evaluating natural gas pipelines and infrastructure in the Delaware River Basin and beyond. They tell an important story regarding the significant environmental and social costs of these projects, and the horror stories from construction of Mariner East 2 show how real the risks are, and how damaging these projects can be to our water resources, and impacted landowners and communities!”
—Tom Gilbert–Campaign Director for Energy, Climate and Natural Resources, New Jersery Conservation Foundation
This painting is a response to the threat of the proposed PennEast pipeline. It is a threat to our community, our environment, our agricultural and cultural resources as well as global climate. I call it “The Climate Change Apocalypse.” It depicts how the places we call home, such as the Rosemont Valley, our global home, including Manhattan, and the glaciers and seas will be impacted by climate change if we cannot stop the use of fossil fuels and the proliferative infrastructure it brings.
Our community is fighting to defend our “peaceable kingdom.” This is why we are working together to stop PennEast and climate change before it is too late.
Opponents of controversial project say their resistance is rooted in a commitment to protecting communities, properties and property rights
When PennEast filed its application to build a 120-mile-long pipeline through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, every New Jersey township it touches passed a resolution in opposition.
Fifteen hundred people moved to intervene — a record-breaking number. Most of them are regular citizens: homeowners, farmers, single moms, retired couples, and small-business owners. Even though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has conditionally approved the project, and even though land is being taken through eminent domain, they are not giving up.
Why all the fuss?
Here is a glimpse of why so many are so committed to stopping this pipeline:
1. The gas is not needed
A paramount question is whether this pipeline is even needed. Despite PennEast’s misleading claims, industry experts report that there is no public need for it. On the coldest winter days in 2018, there were 1.7 billion cubic feet of excess gas flowing out of New Jersey. With such an oversupply of gas, households will not save money by paying for a new billion-dollar pipeline.
2. It’s a money grab for PennEast’s owners
This is not a money-saver for consumers, but a cash cow for the pipeline owners, such as New Jersey Resources and South Jersey Industries. FERC guarantees them a whopping 14 percent return on investment. And it is the regular people who would be paying them — year after year. That’s why the New Jersey Rate Counsel, the state’s consumer watchdog agency, says this project is tantamount to offering a windfall of money to private enterprises while the consumers unfairly foot the bill.
3. Myth of new job opportunities
Building another pipeline disrupts Gov. Phil Murphy’s commitment to clean energy and the economic growth it brings. Nationally, jobs in clean energy are exceeding coal and gas by a five to one ratio. If PennEast is built, there would be months of temporary employment for mostly out-of-state construction workers, but virtually no permanent jobs in New Jersey, according to a study performed by experts at the Goodman Group.
4. Damage to environmentally sensitive, culturally rich region
In densely populated New Jersey, the two counties affected — Hunterdon and Mercer — are rural havens. The pipeline would affect many farms, conserved land, fruit orchards, and forests. Historic districts, endangered species, and some of the cleanest streams in the state are threatened by the construction and operation of this pipeline. In addition, the seizure of over 4,300 acres of preserved open space will undermine the integrity of the State Land Preservation Program. That’s why the state of New Jersey is suing.
5. Taking property for a project that may never be built
The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment says private property should only be taken for a public need. PennEast is a project where the public doesn’t benefit nor has the project even been approved to be built. FERC has conditionally approved it, but many other agencies have not. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and other federal agencies have the power to deny required permits. Once FERC grants a certificate to a project, courts typically grant the right of eminent domain. However, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is appealing the seizure of state lands and is joined by homeowners, the New Jersey Rate Counsel and conservation groups in challenging FERC’s flawed certificate for PennEast.
6. Gas is not a clean fuel and pipelines are not safe
Over the past seven years, the nation’s natural-gas transportation network leaked 17.55 billion cubic feet of mostly methane gas. The Union of Concerned Scientists says that methane is 86 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat. The PennEast pipeline also endangers our water by crossing 38 C-1 streams, hundreds of acres of wetlands and the Delaware River. Geologists say this region has bedrock which will likely release arsenic into our ground water and drinking water. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, over 11,500 clear-cut U.S. pipeline-related incidents occurred since 2000.
Polished rhetoric and PR materials from the project developers and its advocates won’t sway informed consumers. People will continue to passionately oppose a project that is unneeded, unwanted, and harmful to their communities, homes and planet.
Signed by The Trustees of Homeowners Against Land Taking (HALT-PennEast), a volunteer organization of several thousand impacted homeowners and their fellow citizens, committed to protecting their communities, properties and property rights.
Michael Heffler lives in Lambertville. He is an author engaged in community service.