APRIL 2020 NEWSLETTER– April 26th, 2020

HALT APRIL 2020 NEWSLETTER

At the end of our recent monthly member meeting with Congressman Tom Malinowski, the Congressman sounded a very positive note. In the long fight against PennEast he stated, for the first time, we are in a much better position than they are. He cited:

  1. The NJ state win in the 3rd Circuit Court which said PennEast constitutionally does not have the right to claim eminent domain over NJ state owned land on the proposed route.
  2. The possibility that PennEast’s appeal of that case might not be accepted by the US Supreme Court. Even if it is accepted it could be rejected after being heard.
  3. The surprising fact that, for the first time, FERC pushed back on PennEast’s request for a two-phase project, instead of its typical rubber stamping of any PennEast request.
  4. Given the falling price of oil and gas, the natural gas distribution companies investing in PennEast will have trouble coming up with the funds to begin construction. 

Unfortunately, PennEast keeps trying and, as they have the FERC certificate, they can decide to come back sometime in the future if their current plans don’t work out.

Nonetheless, given the difficult times we are currently living through with COVID-19, we should celebrate our good fortune, while staying vigilant. There will be no April member meeting. The next member meeting will be held on May 27 (it may be virtual).

Once the Supreme Court decision on whether to take the 3rd Circuit Case is announced we will put out the word. In addition, HALT’s “due process” case before the US Circuit Court of Appeals in the DC Circuit against FERC is still on the docket awaiting action once steps are cleared with the status of the 3rd Circuit Case.

HALT is announcing a change in our Board of Trustees and a change in our Chairman. Gary Brackenridge of Delaware Township has recently been added to the HALT Board. 

Vince DiBianca, the current Board Chair, has asked to step down as Chairman. Vince founded HALT at the initial meeting at his home. Vince has worked tirelessly for the interests of the homeowners along the proposed PennEast route. Leading an all-volunteer, not for profit community organization against 5 multi-billion-dollar corporations is a challenging task. While HALT members attend our monthly meetings, read our newsletters and appreciate the organizations community and legal efforts, someone has to drive the organization on a regular basis. Vince has provided energy, intelligence, thoughtfulness, putting in long hours to serve our community. He’s worked with the CAP groups, Congressman Malinowski’s office and other environmental groups engaged in the fight against PennEast. We all owe him our gratitude.

Gary Brackenridge will be stepping up as the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Vince will serve on the Board as Chairman Emeritus, helping Gary and continuing to contribute as an active member.

NEXT MEMBER MEETING WILL BE WEDNESDAY, MAY 27

(it may be virtual)

March 2020 Report To Stakeholders

MARCH REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS

By SAVE CARBON COUNTY

PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 3/30/2020

All local Carbon County governments along the pipeline route and the County government have signed on as intervenors except Kidder Township.  We were not able to get to a Kidder Twp. meeting prior to the deadline for signing up as an intervenor, but we were pleased that our local governments, the governments that are closest to the people, recognized that becoming an intervenor was the responsible course of action.

As announced in the February Report to stakeholders, PennEast has announced a Pennsylvania-only version of their pipeline but they continue to change the original pipeline route.  Amendments to the route were approved by FERC  (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) in February.  Save Carbon County has joined HALT (Homeowners Against Land Takings) to hire Attorney Anne Marie Garti to file for a rehearing on the amendment approvals.  We believe FERC is not allowed to amend the original certificated route while that certificate is under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Circuit Court. 

The PennEast application for the new Pennsylvania-only pipeline, called Phase I, included a request to adjust the capital costs of the pipeline to reflect current increased construction costs.  This is bad news for the end customers of this pipeline because they will pay for all construction costs plus up to a 14% “return on investment” (ROI).  These costs will be added to the monthly gas bills of customers for UGI in Pennsylvania and New Jersey Resources and Elizabethtown Gas in New Jersey.  Where else can a company obtain a 14% ROI in today’s economy? No wonder we have so many pipelines.

PennEast also asked FERC to approve a two-year extension for construction of the original pipeline project.  This project has been underway for five years and the company has already spent approximately half a billion dollars.  The project was originally to be operational by January of 2018; the extension gives them until January 2022.

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.”

HALT’s February 26, 2020 Meeting Summary–March 4th, 2020

Summary of HALT’s February 26, 2020 Meeting

There have been some positive developments in the fight against the PennEast pipeline and there are a number of key court cases and amendments requested by PennEast that create suspense and require our continued vigilance.

Anne Marie Garti, the attorney engaged by HALT to contest FERC’s decision (which granted PennEast eminent domain rights) presented information on the upcoming cases and answered member questions.

First the good news!

Last September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit decided that NJ has sovereign immunity, which means PennEast cannot sue the state to take its land. This effectively blocked PennEast from moving forward in NJ as its proposed route includes about 40 parcels of state-owned land.

This month, the Constitution pipeline, which was approved by FERC in 2014 to cross PA and NY, was abandoned by the pipeline company. This was in large part due to the strategies and legal arguments developed by Anne Marie. For all of us new to fighting pipelines, this is incredibly encouraging news. These fights can be won.

Nine of the towns along the proposed NJ route of the PennEast pipeline have joined the Hunterdon Area Energy Coop to reduce the residents’ cost of electricity and to increase the percentage of renewables in our electricity, thus reducing the percentage of natural gas. This has the potential to take over $1 million out of the pockets of the PennEast investors next year.

Second, the pending court cases and requested changes to the Certificate!

PennEast is trying to appeal the 3rd Circuit Court’s decision to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court decides not to hear the case, it is unlikely that the PennEast pipeline can be rerouted around state owned land in NJ. If the Supreme Court takes the case, a decision is not likely until the winter of 2020-21. Even though PennEast has hired a very high-profile lawyer who recently presented his 100th case before the Supreme Court, NJ’s Attorney General, who won the case in the 3rdCircuit, has a great track record of very effective advocacy.

FERC supported PennEast’s request for a Supreme Court hearing. There have been many organizations, including EDF, Delaware Riverkeeper, and others, who submitted briefs supporting NJ.

PennEast asked FERC for a two-year extension to construct the pipeline and FERC, as expected, granted the request.

On January 30, 2020, PennEast asked FERC to amend its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate) so it can build the project in two phases. The first phase would be entirely in PA and PennEast wants FERC to approve this request by October 2020. While clever, Anne Marie suggests that it’s probably illegal to amend the original Certificate in this manner and that PennEast should apply for a new one. Nonetheless, given FERC’s history of granting pipeline developers whatever they want, FERC may overlook this interpretation of the law. HALT members can intervene with FERC through 5 pm on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.

The ugly truth is that as long as FERC has a majority of former and future fossil fuel lobbyists running it, landowners will not get a fair hearing from FERC. However, we will continue to stand united with the NJDEP and the NJ Attorney General. We should remain hopeful because there is now hard proof that pipelines like this can be defeated! We will persevere!

Febuary 2020 Report To Stakeholders

FEB. REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS

By SAVE CARBON COUNTY

PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 2/24/2020

PennEast has created a new project that they are calling Phase 1.  FERC has accepted the application and granted a new docket number (CP20-47).  This is a project to build 68 miles of the original route through PA.  This is a PA-only pipeline that follows the originally proposed route but ends in Bethlehem Twp. where it will connect to the Adelphia Gateway Project which is another pipeline project with a separate docket number (CP18-46).  The Adelphia pipeline will carry the gas to Marcus Hook and then through interconnections to the coast.  Coincidentally, the Adelphia project is owned by New Jersey Resources, a PennEast partner.

Clearly, this is an attempt to work around the fact that the courts have put a hold on the original PennEast plan by ruling that PennEast cannot use eminent domain to obtain easements through 42 New Jersey owned or controlled parcels.  PennEast has filed today to try to get the Supreme Court to hear the case and reverse the decision of the appellate court.  They have also obtained an extension from FERC for the original project to Jan. 2023.

Why didn’t they just begin work on the PA side of the original project?  Why go through the exercise of applying for a new docket number?  In my opinion, there are three reasons: (1) the New Jersey part of this project will be stalled for years so it does them no good to build to the NJ border and wait there to proceed to Trenton (2) This new project can begin generating revenue soon and that’s important to the PennEast partners who have been showing expenditures but no revenues on their quarterly statements for years. 

(3) This new Phase 1 project can stand alone.  It will make money even if the New Jersey side of the original project is never completed.   

The original PennEast pipeline has withdrawn its application from the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) saying that the new pipeline needs no DRBC approvals because it will require no water withdrawals.  However, the pipeline will clear cut and damage sensitive Delaware River watershed areas and the DRBC can insist that the new Phase 1 does require a DRBC permit because it will impact the watershed.

The deadline for signing up as an intervenor for the new Phase 1 pipeline is March 4th.

All local governments and individuals who want to be heard in any hearing or make a comment on the official record should sign up before that date.  Signing up preserves your rights. Easy sign-up instructions are attached to this email.

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.”

January 2020 Report To Stakeholders

JAN. REPORT TO CARBON COUNTY STAKEHOLDERS

By SAVE CARBON COUNTY

PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 1/28/2020

As noted in last month’s report, PennEast Pipeline has asked FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) for an extension of two more years in which to get the project operational.  FERC has not yet scheduled a hearing on the extension request.  The company filed its last-minute request on Dec. 30th.  The certificate was to end on 1/19/2020.

PennEast has also asked FERC to weigh in on a legal dispute with the State of New Jersey regarding using Eminent Domain.  PennEast has lost a federal legal battle to seize the New Jersey land it needs to build the pipeline, stalling the project. But the company intends to appeal to the Supreme Court and has asked FERC for a declaratory order where the commission would state that PennEast should be able to use federal eminent domain powers even to seize state-owned lands. Some observers think FERC is unlikely to grant PennEast’s request because it could have filed briefs in the earlier legal battles if it supported the company’s position.  FERC was originally scheduled to make a decision on the 23rd but has moved the hearing to the 30th

PennEast intends to file its petition to the Supreme Court on February 3rd.  Legal observers say that the odds of the Supreme Court taking up the case are slim.  The Court only takes about 1% of the cases it receives and there is strong precedent upholding a state’s immunity from suits by private parties.  Until the petition is filed, we will not know the basis for the company’s appeal.

While homeowners in Carbon County are battling PennEast, homeowners in Delaware County are dealing with the impact of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.  This pipeline is proposed to carry volatile natural gas liquids from Ohio to an export facility in Delaware County. The pipeline construction has contaminated surface and groundwater sources by hundreds of drilling mud spills, created sinkholes in parks and backyards and ruined wells for dozens of homeowners.  Some homeowners have not had potable water for over six months. The company denies responsibility for any of the well contamination. The DEP has shut down the project for a month and issued fines of $12.6 million. The FBI is investigating the Wolf administration’s handling of the permit process for this pipeline.

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.”