Representatives of the PennEast Pipeline Company have submitted a new application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which will decide whether a 120-mile-long pipeline project can move forward.
The $1 billion project proposes the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania into New Jersey. The new application was filed after the company completed land surveys that halted the project for a year.
“PennEast’s Aug. 8 resubmission of the Freshwater Wetlands Permit application to New Jersey regulators is a technical step forward in a multi-year process that finally will allow New Jersey residents to benefit from lower energy costs, improved reliability, thousands of jobs and a project that supports a cleaner energy future,” said Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast.
Kornick reported that at least 246 engineers, environmental scientists and certified experts compiled the approximately 24,000-page technical application through on-the-ground-analyses.
PennEast must prove the proposed pipeline would comply with state regulations for flood hazards, storm water, and endangered species, while also proving that water quality standards in New Jersey would not be violated.
The pipeline’s construction would occur in the Hopewell area and the New Jersey leg of the pipeline accounts for one-third of the total project.
“The application reflects PennEast’s commitment to listening to suggestions, incorporating feedback and minimizing environmental impacts based on 31 meetings, 30 conference calls and 65 pieces of correspondence with the DEP over the last five years,” Kornick explained.
“That feedback has delivered a route in New Jersey that largely aligns with decades-old power lines and roads to dramatically lower overall impacts. As a result, wetland impacts are reduced by nearly half, with a total project footprint reduced by more than 20 percent,” the spokeswoman said.
Timothy Duggan is a partner with Stark and Stark, Lawrence Township, with experience in eminent domain. The firm is representing four municipalities, including Hopewell Township, two nonprofit organizations and 45 property owners.
“PennEast filed lawsuits in federal court in New Jersey to obtain an order granting them the right to go on the properties of landowners to conduct surveys in order to complete the application process with the DEP,” he said. “Once they get the approvals, they will be able to start construction of the pipeline.”
Duggan said in PennEast’s federal eminent domain lawsuit the company sued the states in 43 different cases.
“So the states said that because PennEast was a private company, you can’t sue the states in federal court, it must be in state court. A district court judge (ruled) that PennEast jumped into the shoes of the federal government, therefore it is OK,” he said. “That was argued about six weeks ago in the Third Circuit and the state is not letting that go. Basically the state is saying to the judge that the cases must be dismissed.”
Duggan reported that 43 cases involving eminent domain are awaiting a decision at the appellate level.
“If the decision is made that you can’t sue the state, PennEast will have to refile, most likely within state court,” Duggan said. “That gives property owners a shot at getting their cases dismissed. Right now, homeowners must be engaged in the DEP application process and object to the granting of the application.”
Kornick said the application affirms the initial finding by federal regulators that the PennEast pipeline can be built and operated in a way that meets or exceeds modern safety standards and is safe for the environment.
“While just one-third of the entire project route is in New Jersey, residents and businesses stand to benefit from the PennEast pipeline project, which will transport the affordable, domestic natural gas on which we rely every day to meet our energy needs,” she said.