Our Land. Our Neighbors. Our Community


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.


 

NEWS


PennEast Seeks Supreme Court Review–November 19th 2019

PennEast announced last Thursday (November 14th) that it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that said PennEast could not take the State of New Jersey into court to take possession of state land.

This move was anticipated. We expected PennEast to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the Third Circuit’s decision because otherwise it lacks options for moving forward with its pipeline project. In addition, PennEast has to show its investors and FERC that it is doing everything it can to get the project built. Otherwise, FERC would have grounds to withdraw its certificate.

Review is not automatic. No one knows whether the high court will hear this case. On average, the Supreme Court only takes 1 to 2% of the cases it is asked to review, and usually only takes cases where circuit courts have issued opposing opinions on the law. That is not the case here. PennEast will argue that it is in the national interest to build pipelines and the Third Circuit’s decision interferes with that national policy. New Jersey, on the other hand, will assert its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This forbids private companies, like PennEast, from suing states unless the right has been waived by the state or by Congress.

If heard, what is the likely outcome? This move by PennEast will cause another extensive delay. If the Supreme Court were to take the case next spring, oral arguments would probably be scheduled in the fall of 2020, with a decision issued during the first half of 2021. No one can accurately predict what the Supreme Court would decide and when it will make that decision.

Steps in the meantime. HALT, and its members and allies, are aligning to support the State of New Jersey to ensure that our resources are made available and our voices heard. Remember, the pipeline cannot be built while the Supreme Court decides whether to take the case or unless it issues an order overturning the Third Circuit’s decision. If it does take the case, it would probably not issue a decision until the winter or spring of 2021. If it doesn’t take the case or doesn’t overturn the decision, PennEast may not be able to proceed.

We will keep you abreast of events as they unfold!

Where Things Stand At This Time–November 4th & 5th 2019

Updated on 11/5/2019

UPDATE:

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:

Legal Updates

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.

Regulatory Update

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! 

Details to follow….

NJDEP Denied PennEast’s Submitted Application–Oct 11th 2019

Tell NJDEP to Reject PennEast Now!–September 18th 2019

Putting Together Our Game Plan — August 29th 2019

PennEast Application Resubmitted to NJDEP — August 12th 2019

Meeting Highlights — June 19th 2019

Governor Murphy & NJDEP Deny Permits To Build Contested Pipeline — June 8th 2019

More Uncertainty for PennEast and FERC — March 20th 2019

HALT Says FERC Lacks Jurisdiction to Amend PennEast’s Application; Pipeline Cannot Be Built Without an Act of Congress — March 18th 2019

Please Intervene By March 8, 2019 — February 24th, 2019

Homeowners Claim PennEast Official has Major Conflict of Interest — February 21st 2019

HALT Letter to Attorney General & Hunterdon Freeholders Support — February 2019

Homeowner Update From Judge — January 17th 2019

PennEast Discussions With Lawyers — January 16th 2019

Court Order Entered — January 11th 2019

Surveying — January 5th 2019

Keeping directly impacted homeowners informed — February 7th 2018

FERC May Have Rubber Stamped PennEast’s Application – But The Real Fight Has Just Begun! — January 19th 2018

Confirmed the nominations of FERC Commissioners McIntyre and Glick — November 3rd 2018

HALT & Homeowner’s Legal Actions — 2017

FERC Nominees Are Confirmed — August 3rd 2017

NJDEP Denies PennEast’s Request for a Permit Application Extension! — 2017

From The Archives: Monthly Report To Stakeholders


“Fourth Annual Pipeline Blowout” in Carbon County, PA.  This annual event is sponsored by HALT’s sister organization, Save Carbon County.

NEW! October 2019 Report To Stakeholders

October 2019 Report To Stakeholders

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.”

Sept 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: “On September 10th, a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Appeals Court, overturned an earlier ruling and upheld the State of New Jersey’s appeal.

August 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: PennEast resubmitted its application for a certification under the Clean Water Act to the New Jersey DEP on August 8th.

July 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: Save Carbon County has been approved for a $1,000 Sierra Club grant to help fund our efforts in fighting the pipeline.

June 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: “When we started our efforts to defeat PennEast, we hoped that delays in the project would provide time for the market for gas to plunge.”

April 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: “As noted in the March report, PennEast filed for approval of a route change on 2/19/19 and asked for FERC approval of that route change by 7/1/19.”

Mar 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: PennEast filed for important approvals with both the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) this month.

Feb 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: “According to a reports filed with the PA Dept. of State, pipeline companies have spent more than $37.7 million on lobbying our representatives in Harrisburg.”

January 2019 Report To Stakeholders

Excerpt: “On Dec. 14th, landowners in NJ received a final judgement in their Eminent Domain hearing.”

Pipeline Impacts in the Delaware River Basin


“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

‘Another Fracking Pipeline’; Film


The PennEast Pipeline, a proposed 120-mile long natural gas pipeline, is scheduled to start in Pennsylvania and end near Trenton, New Jersey. This documentary examines the reasons behind the vehement opposition to the pipeline. This documentary was directed by a highschool senior known as ‘yaz and a camera’ on Youtube. Published May 28 2019.

‘The Climate Change Apocalypse;’ Alix Bacon


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.

Alix Bacon.

Opposition To The PennEast Gas Pipeline Is Not Going Away; NJSpotlight


Michael Heffler | April 3, 2019 | Op-Ed

Originally published in NJSpotlight

Opponents of controversial project say their resistance is rooted in a commitment to protecting communities, properties and property rights

Michael Heffler
Michael Heffler

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.