Outraged citizens, elected officials, and homeowners along the route of the proposed PennEast pipeline joined together today to protest the issuance of a conditional certificate by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late Friday evening.
The conditional certificate issued by PennEast requires the pipeline company to obtain permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Delaware River Basin Commission before it can commence construction. Concerned New Jerseyans called upon NJDEP to again reject the pipeline, given the significant harm the pipeline would do to water resources, preserved open spaces, and endangered species.
“Taking private property for an unneeded and harmful pipeline, that is not in the public interest, is un-American. As impacted homeowners, we are bound-and-determined to stop it and will consider every legal tool at our disposal,” said Vince DiBianca, member of HALT PennEast (Homeowners Against Land Taking).
The issuance of the certificate by FERC means that PennEast likely will start trying to seize land from scores of homeowners, towns, and land trusts through eminent domain. In November, NJ Conservation filed a legal challenge against FERC because the federal agency violated the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by failing to prove that pipelines serve the public good before granting companies the right to seize private property for the infrastructure through eminent domain. The New Jersey Rate Counsel, representing energy consumers, has previously expressed its opinion that the project is unnecessary.
“PennEast is in for the fight of a lifetime. My home, my family’s farm and my health are on the line and we will not back down,” saidT.C. Buchanan, impacted homeowner, Delaware Twp. “We are counting on NJDEP, our elected officials and the support of New Jersey residents to help us stop PennEast for good.”
In addition to homeowners, many bipartisan local, state and federal elected officials oppose the pipeline.
“It’s unconscionable that FERC would issue a certificate for PennEast. We’ve seen this past year how unsafe gas pipelines damage our communities, and we must continue to fight aggressively here in New Jersey against these assaults to our safety, drinking water, and pristine natural environments,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), who represents homeowners in several of the communities that the pipeline would cut through.
In a dissenting decision, FERC Commissioner Richard Glick, stated that PennEast had not proved there was a market need for its pipeline because many of the contracts for its capacity were signed with the company’s own affiliates.
The FERC decision to grant PennEast a conditional “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” was expected. In its 30-year history, the agency has only rejected two pipelines.
Before the pipeline can be constructed, PennEast must obtain a key water permit from NJDEP, whose standards are significantly more rigorous than those used by FERC.
“The NJDEP is now on the front lines of protecting New Jersey’s land and water from Trump administration policies that favor the promotion of big energy profits over our state’s most sensitive natural resources,” said Jim Waltman, executive director, Stony Brook – Millstone Watershed Association.
“The real fight to save our Valley from this dangerous and damaging pipeline starts today. What FERC did on Friday was unconscionable, unacceptable, and immoral, although expected. Now the real battle begins. We will fight in NJ and in PA, as well as at the DRBC to make sure that this pipeline is stopped. We’ve stopped them from getting DEP permits by getting 70% of people along the route to deny them access. We will be doubling-down on our efforts to block them from getting any permits. We have many ways to fight PennEast and will be using each and every one in the days to come,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We will fight them on the water permits, air permits, wetlands permits, 401 permits and any other permits. We’re here to tell PennEast to get the FERC out of our Valley!”
“It would be a huge mistake to think Washington gets the last word on what’s best for our state,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and NJ Conservation Foundation. “This fight is far from over and it’s on New Jersey’s turf now with a new Governor who has stated his strong commitment to moving New Jersey quickly towards a renewable energy future.”