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.
The Third Circuit decided NOT to grant PennEast’s application to rehear or reconsider its prior decision in favor of the State of New Jersey. Thus, PennEast does not have the right to condemn the land on which New Jersey has an ownership interest. This halts another PennEast legal attempt to gain traction on its proposed pipeline. Another closed door.
As stated in our prior newsletter, PennEast may, or may not, petition the Supreme Court to hear its case. We will keep you posted. In the meantime, enjoy this favorable decision from the Third Circuit!
November 4th Post:
As most of you know, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an important decision on September 10, 2019. The Court said the State of New Jersey has sovereign immunity, which means PennEast cannot take the State to court in order to condemn the forty-two parcels of land on which New Jersey has an ownership interest. Although, the Third Circuit’s decision does not affect the parcels on which the state does not have a property interest, this presents a significant obstacle to PennEast’s plans to build the pipeline.
On October 22, 2019 PennEast asked all of the judges on the Third Circuit Court to reconsider the decision made by the panel of three judges. It is unusual for a full Court to overrule a unanimous decision, but it is possible. If PennEast fails, it may, or may not, petition the Supreme Court to take the case. HALT will keep you informed as these appeals proceed.
About two weeks after the Third Circuit’s decision was issued, New Jersey asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to put the six petitions (including HALT’s) against FERC on hold until all of the appeals of the Third Circuit decision have been completed. The court agreed so it cancelled the October 4, 2019 oral arguments. HALT wanted the case to move forward because only the D.C. Circuit can void the certificate FERC granted to PennEast. We will have to wait for however long it takes for the court to decide if FERC violated homeowner due process rights. Meanwhile, PennEast holds an easement on direclty impacted land.
October 10, 2019, NJDEP denied PennEast’s application for a water quality permit which is good news. PennEast may file a new application if it wins its appeal or somehow finds a route that does not cross state land (which we understand to be unlikely). The state action put another crimp in PennEast’s plans.
What can HALT members do now?
While legal proceedings continue, homeowners are advised to create and/or maintain updated records and data on their properties. This includes information on: location of wells, septic systems, creeks and wetlands; water quality test results; historical features, endangered species and more. This may be needed if PennEast ever files a new application to NJDEP.
SPECIAL HALT MEMBER GATHERING TO GIVE THANKS.
The next HALT member meeting will be Wednesday, November 20 at 6:30 pm (not our usual 7:30 pm time). This meeting will be a potluck dinner where we “Give Thanks”. With Thanksgiving the following week, it is an appropriate time to express our gratitude to one another for our long-standing efforts and to take stock of how far we’ve come!
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.