The developer of the PennEast pipeline has decided not to use eminent domain power to buy public lands in New Jersey, raising questions about the fate of the billion-dollar project.
Three months ago, the company scored a key win in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the PennEast Pipeline Co. could sue the state to take over 42 parcels of land for a 120-mile natural gas pipeline that would pump natural gas to New Jersey from Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania. The pipeline would run through Hunterdon County and terminate at Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington.
Opponents of the pipeline say the project will destroy environmentally sensitive lands in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They also argue that the pipeline is not needed because New Jersey is already well-supplied with natural gas.
PennEast has now “agreed in principle to a stipulated voluntary dismissal” of the condemnation proceedings, according to a letter sent by acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew Bruck on Sept. 20 to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is overseeing the company’s claims.
“As such, the parties request that all forty-two (42) of these matters be sent back to the District Court for purposes of effectuating that stipulation,” Bruck wrote.
In August, the company also dropped eminent-domain suits against 70 landowners in Pennsylvania, saying it wasn’t prudent to complete the planned acquisitions.
PennEast representatives have told reporters the company still plans to move forward with the pipeline but is exploring the dismissal of condemnation proceedings with lawyers for affected landowners. Legal proceedings would start again once the project clears regulatory hurdles.
Opponents of the pipeline project hope that the decision not to move forward with taking state lands after getting the green light from the Supreme Court means PennEast will abandon the project. PennEast still has a pending permit application before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to split pipeline construction into two phases, one in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey.