Homeowners Challenging FERC’s Approval of PennEast Pipeline

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:


Greening the Pipeline Route

Michael Heffler 12/19/2018

Since getting involved fighting the PennEast pipeline I’ve been wondering how to hit the natural gas companies, that are the investors in the pipeline, in the wallet.  How can we let them know their decision to build this pipeline is negatively affecting their bottom line and the perception of their customers.

It turns out there is a way!

Aggregation is a program available to towns to bundle the electric rate that ratepayers (all citizens and businesses hooked up to the electric grid) pay.  Traditionally, Aggregation has been used to lower the electric rate. We have done this over the past few years in Lambertville and West Amwell, bundling our towns ratepayers together.  What is also available, and what the Greening the Pipeline Route program is proposing is that rather than simply lower the rate, we change the mix of how we get electricity to lower the percentage of natural gas used that is supplied by the companies investing in PennEast.  We can do this by increasing the percentage of renewables. The current mix from JCP&L is 40% nuclear, 40% natural gas and 20% renewables. We can increase the renewable percentage to 40% and this will reduce the natural gas percentage by 20% (cut it in half).  The natural gas portion is provided by the companies investing in PennEast. We can hit them directly in the wallet.

It gets better.  There is no cost and no action required by the ratepayers.  This new Aggregate percentage mix would come at no additional cost and would require no action on the part of ratepayers.  Ratepayers could opt-out of this new rate to either go 100% renewables at roughly an additional ½ cent per kilowatt hour of electricity or opt out to one of the other alternate choices that are available from JCP&L.  The new aggregate rate would match JCP&L’s standard rate.

JCP&L is primarily a transmitter of electricity.  Nothing would change in terms of billing or electrical service for ratepayers.  There are currently two expense lines on the JCP&L bill we all receive, one for transmission (the electrons coming over the grid), the other for the supplier of the electricity, which will be the company selected through the Aggregation bidding process.  JCP&L uses a similar bidding process to choose their electricity supplier.

Contact your township councils and tell them you’ve heard about this program, Greening the Pipeline, and you’d like to make sure your town participates to increase the percentage of renewables in your electricity and let the investors in PennEast know their customers, all of us who get electricity along the proposed pipeline route are going to fight back with our purchasing power.