Supreme Court Decision


We had a difficult decision today but not unexpected.  Below is the NJCF press release.  There will be no June HALT Member Meeting.  We will share next steps and plans at our July member Meeting. 

U.S. Supreme Court Grants PennEast Land Seizure

Additional approvals needed before project can proceed

 In a narrow 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today overturns the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s earlier decision that PennEast, as a private company, lacks legal authority to seize state-owned lands without the state’s consent.

 The decision enables PennEast to proceed with seizing over 40 properties preserved for future generations by the State of New Jersey and its partners with tax-payer dollars.  The court ruled only on the narrow issue of whether PennEast can seize state lands, not the merits of the project.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Third Circuit’s ruling puts public preserved land in New Jersey in great jeopardy. This is disappointing, but PennEast is still facing numerous legal and regulatory hurdles that will prevent this unnecessary, polluting project from moving forward,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and ReThink Energy NJ. “The PennEast pipeline would threaten the health and safety of our communities, seize private land and taxpayer-preserved open space, and harm our drinking water, natural and historic resources. Ultimately, the state will have final say as to whether the project may proceed.”

 “This project cannot move forward without a New Jersey authorization finding that it could be built consistent with Clean Water Act laws – which are designed to protect waters and wetlands against destructive projects like PennEast,” said Jennifer Danis, senior fellow at Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and of counsel to Morningside Heights Legal Services at Columbia Law School. “While it’s outrageous that the Court sidestepped decades of sovereign immunity jurisprudence, the Murphy Administration went to the mat trying to guard its public and stewarded conservation lands – and we are thankful that they take conservation so seriously.” 

FERC’s certificate for the project is being appealed by numerous parties in the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. The project must still receive approvals from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Delaware River Basin Commission and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection that has twice denied permits for the project.

June 2021 Report To Stakeholders



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.”

May 2021 Report To StakeHolders



PennEast/UGI Pipeline Project- Prepared 5/27/21

I’ve heard the following comment more than once: “What’s the big deal? The pipeline will be underground.  You’ll never know it is there and the pipeline company will pay you!”  So why are we so opposed to this pipeline?  As a pipeline-impacted landowner, my property has been damaged by the threat of PennEast for seven years.  My property has been devalued even though it is very likely that PennEast will never be built.  When the pipeline company gets around to taking my land through Eminent Domain, it will use the “Quick Take” process which means that it will take procession of my land and pay me for it at a future date.  The experience of other landowners with other pipelines has shown that compensation can paid years after the “taking.” 

Knowing that they are backed by Eminent Domain powers, the pipeline company has not bargained fairly with landowners.  PennEast has assessed the value of my land using a “drive-by” survey and landowners were not provided with comparables or other data to show how the values were set.  The value offered for my land and for most parcels has not changed more than 10% since 2014 even though land values have skyrocketed in this area.  Nor am I aware of any instance in which the pipeline company has agreed to move or compromise on the location of the pipeline to accommodate a landowner in any way.

The pipeline company has been allowed to hide important information from the public under the rubric of “national security concerns.”  For example, plume maps showing the reach of pollution from the proposed Kidder compressor station were not made public.  Residents have no idea if their property will be impacted by tons of annual pollution.  FERC does nothing to aid impacted landowners and landowners whose property abuts pipeline-impacted property.  In many instances “abutting” properties are still unaware of the pipeline’s proximity but their land values can be affected.  Maps issued by the company do not show property parcels or parcel numbers making it impossible for nearby property owners to know of the impact of the pipeline on their property.

So yes.  It is a big deal.

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.”