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.
On Thursday August 9, 2019., PennEast resubmitted a permit application for their proposed pipeline to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. NJDEP previously rejected PennEast’s original filing in February 2018.
The reapplication was long overdue, in large part, due to strong community opposition and inability to gain access to impacted properties, which created setbacks for PennEast and resulted in significant delay to their planned timetable.
If NJDEP accepts this submission as being complete, which it hasn’t yet, then it will begin its scrutiny against NJ environmental policies and laws. HALT and its allies are confident that this proposed pipeline ultimately will not meet the strict standards and specifications required under New Jersey law. Likewise, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation believes that NJDEP will have all the evidence it needs to determine that this damaging project cannot meet the state’s stringent environmental regulations.
PennEast Sent an Inaccurate and Misleading Letter to Impacted Homeowners
As has been common behavior on PennEast’s part, a misleading letter was sent out to homeowners on Saturday, just one or two days after the application was sent to NJDEP. In that letter, PennEast told homeowners to send responses within 15 days of the date of the letter.
The strong implication that homeowners only had 15 days to respond was blatantly untrue, misleading and unprofessional on the part of PennEast.
PennEast’s shameful behavior, once again, contradicts PennEast’s repetitive PR claims of fair treatment, forthright communications and good relations with impacted homeowners.
Again, it is our understanding, that NJDEP hasn’t even formally acknowledged receipt of a complete application yet. Homeowners and their supporters will have more than adequate time to respond. In fact, NJDEP will provide a detailed process and timetable for public review including hearings.
HALT will verify it’s understanding of the review process with NJDEP officials and will inform its members, as soon as possible.
The PennEast Proposed Pipeline Remains FAR from being Accepted and Approved.
HALT reminds people of these essential facts:
The application will be scrutinized against rigorous state requirements by the NJDEP and then the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Again, we believe that there will be sufficient data to indicate that these requirements will not be met by PennEast. A denial would likely stop the pipeline from being built.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s office has a case before the US Third Circuit Court urging it to undo the decision that allows PennEast to seize state-owned land including land on preserved farms. If won by NJ, this would likely to be a major setback for PennEast.
Six appellants, including the state of NJ, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Homeowners Against Land Taking (HALT) have appealed FERC’s flawed certificate for PennEast in the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. This case is scheduled to be heard on October 4, in DC.
HALT contends that FERC illegally issued a certificate that grants the right of eminent domain before required agencies made their decisions. PennEast should not have been allowed to take our land before it is known if the pipeline will be built. We contend that taking our land now denies us due process. If this case is won, the decision would likely be a death-blow for the PennEast proposal.
Actions for Homeowners and their Supporters
Over the next several days and weeks, HALT members and supporters will be notified of plans and specific actions they can take to express their views and demonstrate their support to ensure NJDEP and others deliver on their responsibilities.
Next Step — Attend 11 am Tuesday Press Conference
ReThink Energy is holding a press conference at the Watershed at 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, NJ at 11 am on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. Several officials will be in attendance to express opposition to this pipeline. Please come show your support for our community and opposition to this project!
Next HALT Member Meeting is being organized – members will be informed of the date within the next few days.
As things continue to unfold, HALT is committed to ensuring that NJDEP does its job by having homeowner voices heard and by presenting on-the-ground data showing misrepresentations and missing information in the application. Gratefully, our homeowner group is supported by many federal, state and local government officials, community groups and environmental allies.
“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.