More Uncertainty for PennEast and FERC — March 20th 2019

More Uncertainty for PennEast and FERC

 Some good news! The Third Circuit Court of Appeals granted the State of New Jersey a partial stay, and expedited its appeal. This poses yet another problem for PennEast.

The State had asked the Court of Appeals to “stay” the cases where the State is a defendant until a decision was made. The Court of Appeals ruled that surveys and testing can proceed, but no construction is permitted pending the Court’s decision – this relates to state-owner properties, only. The order states — “…physical construction of the pipeline shall be stayed pending this appeal. Additionally, the just compensation portion of the litigation is stayed pending this appeal.”

Although this relates only to the 40-some state-owned properties on the route it aids all homeowners. While surveys and testing can continue, this partial stay will hamper PennEast from moving forward at full speed.  It also provides more reason for FERC to delay decisions because the route and outcome of the stay are unknown.

This court decision, along with the question of PennEast’s permissibility to cross the Appalachian Trail without congressional approval (reported in the most recent HALT newsletter), raises uncertainty for PennEast and FERC.HALT Member Meeting Next Week

HALT’s monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 7:30 pm at the Prallsville Mill. Updates and next steps will be discussed.

HALT Says FERC Lacks Jurisdiction to Amend PennEast’s Application; Pipeline Cannot Be Built Without an Act of Congress — March 18th 2019

HALT’s lawyer has sent a letter to FERC regarding PennEast’s request to amend its Certificate by altering the route in PA.

It appears that Congress must pass legislation in order for a gas pipeline to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (“Appalachian Trail”), which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. In its Application to Amend its Certificate, PennEast filed a route change affecting where the proposed pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. In its comment, HALT referred to the recent 4th Circuit Court decision that blocked the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail, even though the pipeline was going to be bored deep below the surface so that trees would not be cut.

In light of these legal developments, this makes crossing the Appalachian Trial by PennEast a national issue. It appears that FERC, the National Park Service, and state agencies cannot make this decision. It’s up to Congress to decide.

In addition, HALT states that the PennEast’s Application to Amend its Certificate cannot be granted by July 1, 2019, as PennEast requested. This is because HALT filed a petition for review in 2018 that challenges the validity of the certificate FERC issued to PennEast. Under the Natural Gas Act, the D.C. Circuit has to issue an order before FERC can amend PennEast’s certificate.

However, even if FERC prevails in court, the pipeline cannot be constructed unless Congress explicitly grants permission to PennEast for its pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail.

Feb 2019 Report To Stakeholders

HALT represents landowners throughout the PennEast route including Pennsylvania landowners.  The following is a monthly report on the pipeline project from Save Carbon County.  This group is a concerned citizens’ committee that is a Pennsylvania partner of HALT.



PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 3/3/2019

According to a reports filed with the PA Dept. of State, pipeline companies have spent more than $37.7 million on lobbying our representatives in Harrisburg.  The largest amount by far was the $11.6 million spent by companies with an interest in the Mariner East pipeline project.

These expenditures cover the time period of August 2012 through July of 2018.

As of Feb. 19th, Pennsylvania is halting construction permits for natural gas pipelines operated by Texas-based Energy Transfer, LP.  Gov. Wolf announced that the company failed to respect the state’s laws and communities.  The company’s pipeline projects include two gas pipelines, the Mariner East 1 and Mariner East 2, and a natural gas liquids pipeline called Mariner East 2X.  Construction of these three pipelines has drawn blame for causing sinkholes and polluting drinking water. The company has been fined more than $13 million.

At least for a while, the PennEast company will not be able to conduct early tree-cutting prior to receiving all of the needed permits for the project.  Save Carbon County and others were concerned that if PennEast were given permission for early tree-cutting, trees would be cut along the pipeline route—even if PennEast ultimately failed to obtain permission to build the pipeline.  This has happened before in PA. The Constitution Pipeline clear-cut 28 miles of pipeline route in PA before the project was stopped by the State of New York. Even though the pipeline was stopped, the damage to PA was already done.  The next opportunity for tree cutting under the Migratory Birds Treaty begins on Nov. 1, 2019 and extends through March 2020.

The Pipeline Protest Bills continue to move through the PA Legislature.  These Bills, introduced by Sen. Scott Martin and Sen. Mike Regan, would turn peaceful protest at “critical infrastructure” sites (pipelines and fracking sites) into a 2nd degree felony on a par with sexual assault or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  A repeat offense would constitute a first degree felony on par with kidnapping, rape, and murder.  The intent of these Bills is to intimidate and deter potential protesters at pipeline and gas fracking sites.  Vandalism is already a crime in PA. These Bills would criminalize peaceful non-violent protests.

The State of New Jersey has taken a position opposed to fracking and fracking wastewater in the Delaware River Basin.  The State proposes to expand the current prohibitions against fracking well sites within the Basin to a ban on the import, treatment, and discharge of fracking wastewater as well.  The rules on fracking and fracking wastewater are under discussion at the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). New Jersey is one of four states that, with the Federal Government, make up the DRBC.

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.”