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PennEast pipeline battle continues after U.S Circuit Court grants stay


Last week’s appellate court ruling granting a stay on construction of the PennEast pipeline is the latest twist in a five-year battle.

Both pipeline officials and those who oppose it praised the ruling.

PennEast “views the expedited schedule positively and is confident the New Jersey District Court’s ruling will stand,” pipeline spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said of New Jersey’s lawsuit.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stems from a motion filed by the state of New Jersey claiming that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should not have issued preliminary approval for the pipeline.

“This is really good news,” Jeff Tittel, director of the N.J. Sierra Club, said in a statement. “The Court of Appeals will delay the PennEast pipeline until the court case is decided.”

Although physical pipeline construction is prohibited until the outcome of the court case, PennEast is still allowed to pursue its eminent domain cases and continue its survey work, according to the ruling.

“PennEast continues to make very good progress on the surveys in New Jersey and appreciates that the Third Circuit Court’s order allows PennEast to continue with those surveys,” Kornick said.

Although FERC granted preliminary approval for the pipeline project, which New Jersey’s lawsuit is challenging, PennEast still needs approvals from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP ) and the Delaware River Basin Commission to build the pipeline.

Results from their surveying work will allow PennEast to resubmit applications to the NJDEP. An earlier application was denied due to lack of information.

“The court granting of a stay however shows that all of the fighting that people have done to not let PennEast on their land is paying off because we will be able to delay the pipeline even further,” Tittel said.

Rosalind Westlake, a member of Homeowners Against Land Taking (HALT) said the pipeline is not in the public interest.

“It is amazing to me personally that PennEast’s shareholders are not questioning the basis for PennEast’s continuing pursuit of a pipeline that is not only not serving the public, but also is so far behind the initially anticipated schedule and is presumably costing substantial sums.”

Despite what critics say, “PennEast still anticipates beginning construction toward the end of 2019,” Kornick said, in spite of the successful motion for the stay.

She has said previously that pipeline construction is expected to last between seven months and a year.

However, the start date for construction is now tied to a ruling which for now remains uncertain.

The PennEast pipeline could transport about 1.1 million dekatherms per day (MMDth/d) of natural gas from the Marcellus Region of Pennsylvania. Dekatherm is a unit of heat, where one dekatherm equals one Million British Thermal Units (MBtu).

The 120-mile $1 billion PennEast pipeline is proposed to begin in Dallas, Luzerne County, in the northeastern part of the state, and end at Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington in Mercer County, N.J.

Tittel continues to pressure Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration into stopping the pipeline project outright by denying PennEast its necessary 401 Water Quality Certificate.

“All of the different state agencies involved in the case shows that this pipeline will cut through an incredible amount open space, forest, and waterways,” Tittel said. “However, time is on our side for a clean energy future.”