Monthly Archives: February 2018

Further Challenge To PennEast Pipeline

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had previously presented concerns with the environmental impacts of the proposed pipeline from northeastern Pennsylvania into New Jersey. Now, the Department has taken the more agressive step of asking the federal regulators of FERC to reconsider the FERC approval from last month. Traditionally federal and state regulators have been very supportive of pipeline development. This filing follows the recent trend of more active regulatory oversight.

NJDEP asks Feds to reconsider PennEast pipeline decision, setting up potential legal battle

The NJDEP has asked FERC to place a stay on eminent domain proceedings by the controversial pipeline company.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection filed a request with federal regulators Friday, asking that they reconsider a key decision regarding the controversial PennEast pipeline. The move signals an escalation in the DEP’s opposition to the project and could set the table for a legal battle.

In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a certificate to PennEast that would allow the company to use eminent domain to access public and private lands to survey for the pipeline, and obtain the land if necessary for construction. The tool is essential for the PennEast Pipeline Co., which is seeking to build a 120-mile natural gas pipeline from northeast Pennsylvania to Mercer County. The company has been hamstrung by landowners along the proposed path who have denied it access, including the state of New Jersey.

The DEP has cited the lack of access in denying PennEast’s applications to the state, initiating a Catch-22 that suggested the agency opposed the project. But the agency’s request that the FERC hold a rehearing, and also stay the use of eminent domain until one can be held, shows it is taking a more active role in filing against the project.

In its filing, the DEP argued that the FERC incorrectly confused PennEast’s promises to “mitigate” environmental concerns, with legal requirements that pipelines avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

“Although the pipeline proposes to cross over 30 streams in New Jersey, NJDEP has not been provided with any site-specific stream crossings detailing how environmental impacts would be avoided or minimized,” the filing stated.

The state also argued that simply allowing surveyors to access land “undoes the preserved nature of the land, even if the pipeline will never ultimately cross that land due to route changes.” It also made the argument that the department would require up to a year to review any new application submitted by PennEast, and thus a stay would cause no harm to PennEast as the FERC considers the rehearing request.

The DEP also noted that it wasn’t the only entity requesting a rehearing: The pipeline’s docket showed at least 14 parties also filed rehearing requests this past week, including the New Jersey Sierra Club, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and New Jersey Natural Lands Trust.

In a phone interview, New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said the filings set up a potential legal battle.

“If FERC doesn’t grant (the requests), you can then go to federal court to challenge the decision,” Tittel said.

Court records show PennEast has filed eminent domain proceedings against more than 180 noncompliant properties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The DEP’s rehearing request noted that PennEast had filed proceedings against 150 parcels in New Jersey.

Written by: Kyle Bagenstose | The Intelligencer

By |February 21st, 2018|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

PennEast Pipeline – Eminent Domain Filed

A natural gas pipeline proposed for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey has been approved by FERC. The application still needs permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The company has filed eminent domain documents. Property owners are encouraged to protect their property rights.

PennEast pipeline seeks eminent domain, plus U.S. marshals to protect workers

The PennEast Pipeline Co. filed eminent domain notices in federal court to obtain access to land owned by dozens of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have refused its offers of compensation for building the proposed natural gas pipeline on their property.

Court documents were filed in both states on Tuesday, asking the courts to allow the company to immediately take possession of the rights of way where the pipeline would be built on individual properties.

The company also asked the court to approve the presence of federal marshals to “enforce the Court’s injunction” and to prevent landowners and their supporters from impeding construction.

The filing said that landowners and their supporters have indicated that they intend to block access and “harass and intimidate” PennEast employees and contractors who should be protected by marshals.

 Armed marshals

In March 2016, federal marshals armed with semi-automatic weapons were present during the cutting of several acres of maple trees on a property in Susquehanna County, Pa. to make way for the planned Constitution Pipeline that was later blocked by the state of New York.

The new filings say the company is authorized to “condemn” the rights of way by the certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on January 19.

Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for the company, said it has been trying to avoid legal action to obtain access to private land, but finally did so on Tuesday after being unable to agree to compensation terms with an unspecified number of landowners.

“While PennEast views legal proceedings as emotional, burdensome, and costly for all involved, it exercised that last-resort option February 6,” Kornick said in a statement. “The ability to access properties to confirm environmental data is required by the federal order.”

In the public interest

She said the action was justified by the FERC decision, which found the pipeline is in the public interest because of the benefits it will bring to millions of people who will have access to cheap natural gas. The company says the pipeline will be operational in 2019.

The company continues to work with landowners to agree to compensation, and has reached acquisition agreements with “more than half” the landowners along the 120-mile route from Luzerne County, Pa. to Mercer County, N.J., Kornick said.

Timothy Dugan, an attorney who represents about 30 New Jersey landowners who are fighting PennEast, said 49 had been sued by late afternoon Wednesday. He estimated that between 160 and 200 landowners across the route have refused to accept the company’s offers, but that the final number should become known on Thursday when the company continues its filings.

About two-thirds of New Jersey landowners refused any cooperation with PennEast until FERC issued its certificate, but some of those have now reached agreement because they didn’t want the expense of hiring a lawyer, Dugan said.

Some landowners shocked

PennEast’s action came after the expiration of the its own Feb. 5 deadline for landowners, both private and public, to agree to offers of compensation. But the filing still came as a shock to some landowners.

T.C. Buchanan, who owns 32 acres in Delaware Township near Stockton, has been fighting the company’s plan to create a right-of-way about a half-mile long and 100 feet wide on her farm.

She said PennEast offered $46,000 for the easement, which she said would make the farm “worthless.”

“When somebody is threatening to destroy something you have worked your entire life for, it’s so upsetting,” said Buchanan, 63, who has lived on the farm, and made her living from it, for 22 years.

She said she would not accept PennEast’s offer at any price. “This is what we worked our entire lives to have and we don’t intend to give it away,” she said.

Jacqueline Evans runs a certified organic farm on 6 1/2 acres near Stockton, where she lives with her three children, and where PennEast wants to build the pipeline. She said she would lose her organic certification and the pipeline would come “dangerously close” to her well.

Evans, 53, said PennEast appraised the proposed right of way at $11,900 but then offered her $49,300 on condition that she accept the offer within a week.

She refused, and says she won’t accept any amount of compensation. “This is wrong, and I’m not letting them put my children in an incineration zone,” she said.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, urged landowners to hold out against PennEast despite the eminent domain orders.

“If homeowners give PennEast easement, they will lose their rights on a portion of their land. They are better off fighting them in court to delay them and limit their ability to just do survey work on their land,” Tittel said in a statement.

While the FERC certificate was a boost for the pipeline project, it must still obtain permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission and from New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, which last week denied the company’s application for a wetlands permit, saying it had not supplied enough information.

The company says it will reapply, and argues that the pipeline will increase the supply of low-cost natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to consumers and utilities in the two states. Opponents including the New Jersey Rate Counsel, an advocate for utility ratepayers, say there is no need for the line.

Written by: Jon Hurdle | StateImpact PA
Photo caption: A landowner rips up an offer of compensation from PennEast at a rally February 2, 2018.

By |February 18th, 2018|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|

DEP Fine of Sunoco Pipeline

The Pennsylvania DEP ordered a January 3 halt to the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction following multiple permit violations. The DEP has now allowed a February 8 restart to construction following an agreement with Sunoco Pipeline with a fine of $12,600,000. The DEP will monitor further construction.

The delay has led Sunoco to offer the purchase of additional one year easements for ongoing construction/remediation work. Property owners are not obligated to agree. Faherty Law Firm is providing legal representation to owners approached by Sunoco Pipeline for additional property rights.

Sunoco fined $12M, but allowed to resume work on Pa. pipeline

Pennsylvania regulators are fining Sunoco more than $12 million for problems with a massive natural gas pipeline project, but letting work resume under a consent agreement.

The Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday that Sunoco Pipeline has made changes since work on the $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 pipeline was halted Jan. 3.
Rolfe Blume holds up bottles of water that he said came from his well after construction started on the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The 350-mile project has been plagued by spills and leaks of drilling fluid and improper construction methods.

In stopping the work, the state agency said Sunoco demonstrated it couldn’t or wouldn’t comply with Pennsylvania’s clean streams law and other regulations.

The company didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Among the violations reported across the state, the owners of private wells in Cumberland County near North Locust Point Road in Silver Spring Township reported cloudy water in December in areas where the DEP reported that Sunoco’s crews used a method of digging that wasn’t allowed under its permits.

More violations were reported in a wetland in Lower Swatara Township in Dauphin County and off of Shaeffer Run in Toboyne Township in Perry County.

‘It should have been stopped a long time ago:’ Pipeline opponent sees construction halting as small victory
Rolfe Blume of Upper Frankford Township has fought the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which cuts through his property on its way across the state. The DEP halted construction Wednesday over numerous violations.

The 20-inch pipeline will move natural gas liquid products from Marcellus Shale drilling fields in western Pennsylvania to a terminal in Philadelphia.

It’s scheduled for completion by summer.

Written by: Mark Scolforo | The Associated Press

By |February 15th, 2018|Categories: Condemnation, Eminent domain, Pipeline Construction, Property Rights|