Justice Department urges overturn of PennEast Pipeline Ruling

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The court decision that derailed the PennEast natural-gas pipeline project last year should be overturned to maintain the efficient flow of energy in the United States, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a brief filed this week with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Solicitor General, which represents the federal government before the high court, urged the justices to set aside the 2019 ruling that the State of New Jersey was within its rights to effectively block the construction of PennEast by refusing to allow the seizure of public lands as right-of-way for the project, which was supposed to supply Appalachian gas to customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“We appreciate the Solicitor General’s recommendation and believe the issues raised must be heard to ensure we have the vital energy supplies we need to protect our nation’s reliability and security,” David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), said in a written statement.

The $1 billion pipeline, designed to ship 1 Bcf/d of gas, was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2018. New Jersey, however, stepped in and refused to go along with the planned condemnation and seizure of 42 parcels of land as part of the pipeline’s right-of-way. The Third District Court of Appeals agreed with the state that the FERC approval issued under the Natural Gas Act did not permit private companies to seize state-owned land under eminent domain.

The Solicitor General’s brief was not immediately available; however, media reports said it chastised the ruling as one that could “significantly disrupt” government oversight over the nation’s gas supply by enabling one state to effectively veto a crucial multi-state transmission project.

The CEA, which had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the pipeline consortium, said the Third Circuit ruling would end up threatening reliable energy supplies.

“This is a significant step for due process and making sure there is a full hearing at the Supreme Court on the importance of this project for consumers across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as stopping new and arbitrary delays by state agencies that oppose critical infrastructure projects on ideological or political grounds,” Holt said.