JUNE REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS
By SAVE CARBON COUNTY
PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 6/30/21
The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of PennEast on Tuesday allowing the pipeline to condemn state-owned property through eminent domain. The opinion created a strange coalition of judges with Gorsuch, Thomas, Barrett, and Kagan in opposition and Alito, Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kavanaugh in the prevailing position. At its simplest, the decision means that the federal government can delegate its power to condemn properties to for-profit entities such as PennEast. PennEast will now be able to acquire 42 properties that are owned by New Jersey and preserved for farmland or open space or for conservation purposes. The majority opinion written by Justice Roberts states that, “…they [states] surrendered their immunity from the exercise of the federal eminent domain power when they ratified the Constitution.”
PennEast plans to build the pipeline in two phases with the first phase a Pennsylvania-only pipeline running through Carbon and Monroe and ending in Bethlehem with the second phase terminating as originally planned in Trenton, New Jersey. Both phases face daunting regulatory and legal hurdles. Both phases will now face court cases that have been held in abeyance pending the outcome of this Supreme Court decision.
What the courts giveth the courts can take away. The proposal to build the Pennsylvania-only portion of the project seems to be at risk due to a recent case argued before the DC Circuit. That case involves the Spire pipeline. The key question appealed was whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) erred in conferring a certificate of public necessity and need for the Spire pipeline which used only shippers affiliated with the owners of the pipeline to prove the need for the pipeline. Spire lost the argument and the case. The PennEast Phase I project also uses only self-dealing contracts to validate the need for the project. Since FERC has yet to issue a certificate, issuance seems unlikely unless unbiased evidence that the pipeline truly serves the public good can be produced.
Save Carbon County is a member of a regional and two-state effort to stop the PennEast/UGI pipeline. Local information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop the Fracking Pipeline.” Regional Information can be found on FaceBook at “Stop PennEast Pipeline.”