A federal appeals court judge has granted New Jersey a stay in its court case against PennEast and the action will halt the start of construction on the company’s natural gas pipeline.
PennEast wants to build a 110-mile natural gas pipeline from the Marcellus Region of Pennsylvania through Hunterdon and Mercer counties, including Hopewell Township, according to Hopewell Township Mayor Kristin McLaughlin.
On March 19, Judge Michael Chagares of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadephia, issued the stay. The stay halts the construction of the pipeline, but allows PennEast to continue environmental surveys and apply for state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits, according to court documents.
Several opponents of the pipeline project were pleased with the court’s decision, including McLaughlin.
“Hopewell Township has worked very hard to protect the open spaces we have. Sixty percent of our township’s population is on well water and septic systems. Environmental issues are at the forefront with this project,” McLaughlin said. “We rely on a clean water supply. As a township, we are absolutely opposed to this pipeline.”
The mayor said her two primary concerns with the project are a private company cutting through public preserved lands for private gain, and that the pipeline does not bring any benefit for Hopewell Township.
McLaughlin said she has heard from residents who have voiced concern about the project.
“There is a large group of our residents who have had problems with the project. The Township Committee as a whole has been firmly against the pipeline for quite some time,” she said. “Former Mayor Kevin Kuchinski really championed fighting against the pipeline.”
The mayor said, for example, there is a resident whose house would be 10 feet from the pipeline if the project is built.
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said, “This (stay) is really good news. The Court of Appeals will delay the PennEast pipeline until the court case is decided. Any time you stop a bad project it’s a win. The pipeline could be delayed for a year, or even two to three years.”
The state’s motion to expedite the appeal was also granted, according to court documents. New Jersey’s representatives must now file a brief within 30 days of the March 19 court order.
The pipeline project has faced obstacles along the way, including residents and officials of municipalities such as Hopewell Township fighting against eminent domain; and also the DEP denying PennEast’s application for a freshwater wetlands permit and water quality certificate. PennEast needs the permit before the project can move forward.
PennEast will be able to file its own brief within 20 days after the state has filed its brief, according to court documents.