Stockton, NJ (December 27, 2018) – Homeowners Against Land Taking (HALT-PennEast), whose members include hundreds of directly impacted homeowners and thousands of their neighbors, filed its brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last Friday, challenging the validity of FERC’s certificate of public convenience and necessity. HALT argues that FERC violated the Natural Gas Act and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by failing to wait for decisions by other agencies that have the authority to block the construction of the project.
“FERC granted PennEast the right to take people’s land by ignoring the limitations that Congress and the Constitution have placed on its powers,” said Anne Marie Garti, the attorney representing HALT. “The Natural Gas Act says that eminent domain is for the construction of pipelines, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has not yet decided whether this pipeline will get built. HALT is asking the D.C. Circuit to issue an order that says FERC violated the law by failing to wait for NJDEP’s decision.”
According to Vincent DiBianca, a directly impacted homeowner, HALT trustee, and the owner of a small farm and business on the pipeline’s proposed route in Hunterdon County, NJ, “Although some feel dominated by the influence of FERC and PennEast, our homeowner group along with our friends and neighbors are standing together for what we believe in. We see it as a victory of right over might.”
Adds Rosalind Westlake, HALT trustee and resident of Delaware Township, NJ, “Throughout this entire process, FERC has failed to acknowledge any of the facts and data provided by the public. It has adopted wholesale the unsupported statements of PennEast and rubber-stamped the approval of PennEast’s application in direct contravention of our due process property rights granted by the US Constitution. We are eager to present our case to the US Court of Appeals.”
There are five other Petitioners challenging FERC’s decision. HALT joined the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Hopewell Township, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation / the Watershed in one brief, while the NJDEP and the NJ Division of Rate Council shared a separate brief. Each group focused on a distinct legal issue – together posing many significant challenges to FERC’s procedures.
Even though the pipeline may never be built, PennEast – owned by New Jersey Resources, South Jersey Industries and UGI – initiated over 180 eminent domain proceedings against homeowners and used FERC’s certificate to acquire court-ordered easements on their properties. In its brief, HALT asked the D.C. Circuit to void the certificate and nullify any easements that were granted as a result of its issuance.
HALT’s request for rehearing can be downloaded by clicking here: