Yesterday, PennEast began the process of filing papers in federal court to take land from homeowners, non-profits, municipalities, counties and the State of New Jersey according to HALT PennEast, a large group of impacted homeowners and concerned citizens from New Jersey and Pennsylvania committed to stopping the taking of private property by PennEast pipeline, that would transport fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.
So far, 35 landowners in New Jersey and 21 in Pennsylvania have been targeted for eminent domain by PennEast Pipeline Co., a for-profit company, that energy experts and the NJ Division of Rate Counsel have criticized as having no public benefit.
Additional eminent domain filings against landowners are pouring in today.
Properties facing seizure in New Jersey include the Muddy Run Preserve that is owned by Hunterdon Land Trust, Hunterdon County and NJDEP. On Monday, the Office of the Attorney General sent a letter to PennEast refusing PennEast’s offer to purchase several parcels of preserved land owned by the state.
“Just as the Murphy administration is doing, we will defend these preserved and private lands against PennEast’s outrageous use of eminent domain for a pipeline that serves no public benefit to the residents of Hopewell Valley nor the state of New Jersey. These lands were preserved with taxpayer dollars, and we will not willingly hand them over to PennEast so that they can enrich their private shareholders at public expense,” said Kevin Kuchinski, mayor of Hopewell Township.
“My three young children and I have been fighting the PennEast Pipeline for three years, because it is not needed, threatens our well water, and puts our organic farm and home in the ‘incineration zone’. PennEast receiving authorization from FERC to try to condemn my land does not change anything. We will continue to fight this, because PennEast is unwanted, unneeded and wrong! The immense amount of eminent domain necessary for this project to be constructed is a huge red flag that this is a bad idea, and it is clear that politicians and government agencies are recognizing that. We are not alone in this fight!” said Jacqueline Evans, Stockton, NJ.
“It’s so difficult to be living in a free country and facing the prospect of a private company making a ton of money off your land while destroying your home and farm. I feel violated and betrayed by the government that’s supposed to be protecting me,” said TC Buchanan, resident of Stockton, NJ.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), granted conditional approval to the PennEast pipeline on January 19th, granting them eminent domain authority. PennEast has claimed that eminent domain would be a last resort, but is now attempting to seize scores of private and public lands, including asking the court to enforce their taking of land with U.S. Marshalls.
The pipeline cannot be constructed without approval from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Delaware River Basin Commission, which have not begun to review the controversial project. PennEast is owned by AGL Resources Inc., New Jersey Resources; South Jersey Industries; UGI Energy Services LLC; and Spectra Energy Partners LP.