The Pennsylvania-based PennEast pipeline project began filing eminent domain lawsuits against homeowners across two states to gain access to their land.
PennEast, a natural gas pipeline group made up of five different energy companies, filed a total of 44 eminent domain lawsuits in federal courts in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The proposed $1.2 billion pipeline would carry gas from the Marcellus Shale production area in eastern Pennsylvania through New Jersey, passing over both the Lehigh River and the Delaware River.
The eminent domain filings come shortly after the pipeline consortium sent letters to property owners notifying them that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had granted the project conditional approval on Jan. 19. The letters gave property owners less than three weeks to accept the company’s final offer for easements.
At least 44 of the more than 800 property owners flatly rejected that offer.
PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick was looking for some sympathy in the court of public opinion before enacting the legal proceedings to drag homeowners in two states to federal court to get access to their land.
“While PennEast views legal proceedings as emotional, burdensome and costly for all involved, it exercised that last-resort option on Feb. 6. PennEast is continuing to work with the majority of landowners to reach a fair agreement that compensates landowners for temporary and permanent impacts and has reached acquisition agreements with more than half the landowners along the route."
PennEast has already announced that they are planning to begin construction in 2018 following the certificate of public convenience granted by FERC last month.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection rejected PennEast’s initial water quality permit application due to a lack of land surveys from landowners, while New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal rejected their application for a permit to use state-controlled land for the project.
All necessary permits have already been granted in Pennsylvania.