The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to approve PennEast Pipeline Co.‘s petition for a declaratory order and expedited action requesting that the body issue an order interpreting the Natural Gas Act’s eminent domain authority.
The PennEast Pipeline project has been a point of contention since 2014. Proponents contend the proposed $1 billion project will bring natural gas in a safe manner and provide high-paying construction jobs to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Opponents warn it would damage the environment, displace residents, and pose risks to human health.
PennEast spokeswoman Pat Kornick hailed the decision.
“Today’s order by federal regulators is encouraging news for families and businesses who deserve low-cost, clean and reliable energy and for the thousands of laborers who earn their living building the infrastructure on which we rely,” Kornick told NJBIZ via email. “The ruling reaffirms that federally approved interstate projects like the PennEast Pipeline have the authority to construct critical natural gas infrastructure. Millions of Americans, including around three-quarters of New Jersey households, rely on natural gas to heat their homes, and many more benefit from natural gas affordably and reliably fueling electric power generation.”
“In agreeing with PennEast, the Commission reiterated that vital infrastructure should not be disrupted by parochial interests after having been found by expert federal regulators to be in the broad public interest and environmentally safe,” Kornick said.
The company is looking to seize hundreds of acres of preserved open space in New Jersey. Almost 50 percent of that land is preserved land, farmland or state parks.
– Jeff Tittel, director, New Jersey Sierra Club
Under the proposal, the PennEast Pipeline Co. would construct underground pipes carrying natural gas along a 120-mile route from Luzerne County, Pa. across the Delaware River and through Holland, Alexandria, Kingwood, Delaware, West Amwell and Hopewell townships in New Jersey. The company consists of NJR Pipeline Co.; PSEG Power; SJI Midstream; Southern Company Gas; Spectra Energy Partners; and UGI Energy Services, according to the PennEast website.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, opposed the commission’s decision.
“FERC is backing PennEast’s attempt to take state public land in the Supreme Court,” Tittel said via email. “This decision is an outrageous interference in the legal process. The move is shameful but not unexpected by the Federal Energy Rubberstamp Commission. FERC doesn’t care about the Sovereignty Clause, the 11th Amendment or the rights of states. This is a complete abuse of power and just another move by the Trump Administration to push fossil fuel pipelines and block renewable energy. Today FERC sided with the fossil fuel industry over public health. They are backing PennEast on trying to take thousands of acres of state land and put in an unnecessary pipeline.
“PennEast is trying to take state land through federal action but we will keep on fighting every step of the way,” he added “The company is looking to seize hundreds of acres of preserved open space in New Jersey. Almost 50 percent 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. We also believe PennEast will take even longer to build their pipeline, especially with the Third Circuit decision that the pipeline cannot be built on state land. PennEast is already appealing the Third Circuit Court decision. That is why we have to continue to fight PennEast at FERC and everywhere else.”