Since FERC has rubber-stamped the PennEast proposal, many opponents, including HALT, are fighting back and will be requesting a rehearing of FERC’s unjust and improper Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.
As we begin the process to challenge FERC’s certificate, PennEast started suing landowners by filing complaints in condemnation in three federal district courts today: one in New Jersey and two in Pennsylvania. Homeowners who are not selling easement rights to PennEast will be getting served with these papers. The process goes something like this:
- PennEast is currently filing the following papers in court: a notice of the complaint in condemnation and a variety of other papers, including an order to show cause (for the right to take the land and the right to obtain immediate access to it). There is a separate set of papers and distinct case number for each landowner.
- The court needs to set a return date for the order to show cause.
- Process servers will soon start trying to find landowners at home, work, or about town and will hand them these papers.
- Once a landowner is served, there is a set amount of time to answer the complaint and respond to the other papers. If a landowner does nothing, (s)he will still get paid what PennEast is offering for the easement at the time.
- Some landowners have retained an attorney to contest the fair market value that PennEast has included in their paperwork. Other landowners are also going to contest PennEast’s right to take their land.
If a landowner voluntarily signs an easement agreement with PennEast, then that easement will be attached to their deed “forever.” PennEast would then be able to use the easement, or sell it in the future, even if they don’t build this pipeline.
However, if an easement is ordered by a court, through eminent domain proceedings, then its use is restricted to this project. Legal advisers believe that not “settling” with PennEast is the best way to ensure that any court imposed
easement can be removed – if and when the pipeline is stopped.