The state of New Jersey won its appeal in the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which challenged FERC’s decision to allow PennEast to use eminent domain on state owner properties. In March, Gurbir Grewal filed a motion to block PennEast for using eminent domain on over 20 properties acquired under open-space and farmland preservation programs. Roughly half of the properties pipeline company wants to seize under eminent domain are preserved as open space and farmland. The court cases against private owners however are not dismissed.
“This is a giant win for the environment and a victory in a battle to stop the PennEast Pipeline. New Jersey won its appeal against PennEast to sue for eminent domain on state land. The U.S Court of Appeals ruled that PennEast does not have the authority to use eminent domain on state land because the state of New Jersey has sovereign immunity. This means PennEast cannot do anything on state owned land until the lawsuit is over,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The court ruling is a big victory for the preservation of open space and the right of the state of New Jersey to protect those lands. This is a major setback for PennEast and helps us in our battle to delay and finally kill this dangerous and damaging pipeline.”
Appellants of the court case against PennEast Pipeline include the State of New Jersey, the NJDEP, the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee, Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission, New Jersey Water Supply Authority, New Jersey Department of Transportation, New Jersey Department of the Treasury, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
“PennEast would not only cut and ugly scar through our valley but would have destroyed important open space. PennEast is looking to seize 100s of acres of preserved open space in New Jersey. Almost 50% of that land is preserved land, farmland or state parks. That land is state owned land, or where the state has an interest in, has ownership development rights, or owned by a state agency. Some of the major state- owned properties that are part of the PennEast Pipeline route include the Delaware River and Raritan Canal, Bulls Island State Park, Goat Hill, Baldpate Mountain,” said Tittel.
The PennEast Pipeline is 110-mile pipeline that will bring natural gas from the Marcellus Region of Pennsylvania through Hunterdon and Mercer Counties in New Jersey. The pipeline would threaten the entire Valley including 91 acres of wetlands and over 44 miles of forest, 88 waterways, and over 1,600 acres’ total.
“This pipeline is dangerous and unnecessary. The pipeline would threaten the entire Valley including 91 acres of wetlands and over 44 miles of forest, 88 waterways; over 1,600 acres’ total. The pipeline’s crossing near Riegelsville would be within the Lower Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River. Near its southern terminus, the pipeline would cut through the Sourland Mountain, which contains the last contiguous forested areas in central New Jersey and has been recognized as a unique and fragile ecosystem,” said Tittel.
PennEast is asking for eminent-domain approval to acquire 62 properties it needs along the route of the pipeline, a $1 billion project that has sparked vehement opposition on both sides of the river.
We thank Attorney General Grewal for his diligence and work on fighting to stop PennEast. It takes good legal work in environmental reviews, not pop up ads on the internet. With all of the different state agencies involved in the case shows that this pipeline will cut through an incredible amount open space, forest, and waterways. With the court ruling, PennEast may try to reroute their pipeline around public lands or on the Pennsylvania side,” said Tittel. “Even though the state has won a huge win, it is not over. We have to keep fighting. It will be remanded back to lower courts, the Trump Administration could find a way to have the federal government condemn the land or PennEast can repeal to the Supreme Court.”
Besides missing their state and federal permits, PennEast still does not have approval from the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).
“Today is a great day for the environment, but we are not done yet. We need to keep fighting. The state needs to put a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects to give us more time, the DEP need to fix their rules that make it easier to build pipelines, and the Governor needs to put pressure on the DEP to reject their 401 Water Quality Certificate,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is a big battle, and will we keep fighting until it is stopped!”