The U.S. Supreme Court has not made a decision yet on whether to hear an appeal from the PennEast Pipeline Company to overturn a 2019 Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision, denying the condemning of 42 parcels of New Jersey state-owned land for the company’s $1 billion pipeline project.
However, the court recently received the court’s requested brief from the U.S. Solicitor General expressing the Trump Administration’s views on the issue. The Supreme Court had asked on June 29 for a brief to be filed from the administration before the justices make a decision.
Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall and lawyers in the U.S. Department of Justice filed the amicus brief on Dec. 9, according to the U.S. Supreme Court docket for the petition. In the brief, the administration expressed a view of support that the petition of writ certiorari (a written request for review) should be granted to PennEast.
In the brief filed, the reasons presented by the Solicitor General for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case included that the court of appeals decision was incorrect and that an entity such as PennEast could exercise the right of eminent domain to property the state claims an interest; if permitted to stand the decision (Third Circuit) would have significant effect on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) ability to coordinate the nation’s gas supply; and granting such veto power to states would be directly at odds with Natural Gas Act (NGA) purpose of supplying affordable and reliable natural gas.
“By advocating for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant the PennEast petition, the Solicitor General agreed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and 18 business, labor and consumer advocacy organizations, which filed amicus briefs, and the project itself, that last year’s lower court ruling seriously was flawed and should be reversed,” said Patricia Kornick, spokesperson for PennEast.
She added that the company remains hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court quickly grants the PennEast petition and reverses the Third Circuit decision.
The construction of the 116-mile long natural gas pipeline is a $1 billion project from Pennsylvania into New Jersey. If the pipeline project were to be constructed, its construction would occur in the Hopewell area, while the New Jersey leg of the pipeline accounts for about one-third of the total project.
In February, PennEast Pipeline Company was granted a two-year extension from FERC to complete the construction of pipeline project facilities.
Prior to that decision, the company had filed an amendment with FERC to construct the pipeline in two phases in January. FERC is a federal independent agency that regulates the interstate transportation of electricity, natural gas and oil.
Phase one consists of 68 miles of pipeline in Pennsylvania, which would be ready to deliver natural gas by November 2021. Phase two would finish the remaining route in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with a target completion in 2023.
Over the course of 2019, PennEast faced several setbacks in the New Jersey portion of the pipeline.
In November of last year, the company made the decision to appeal its federal appeals case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision came in light of a November ruling by Third Circuit Court of Appeals, denying PennEast’s request to rehear a case concerning the condemning of 42 parcels of New Jersey state-owned land for PennEast’s pipeline project.
Due to that denial and opinion by the third circuit, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also denied the company’s Freshwater Wetlands Permit application siting that PennEast’s application could not be “administratively complete” because of the circuit’s decision.
Even with the delays and still awaiting the conclusion to PennEast’s court case, New Jersey Resources (NJR) spokesperson Kevin Roberts said NJR, an energy company, still supports the project, despite information releases by environmental groups following the company’s investor day on Nov. 30. According to the company, it maintains a 20% equity interest in the pipeline project.
Roberts referred the Hopewell Valley News to CEO Steve Westhoven’s remarks on investor day, regarding the PennEast project removal from the company’s growth projections.
“NJR is committed to the PennEast project, but we are removing it completely from our financial projections,” Westhoven said. “PennEast is an important project for the northeast, but the uncertainty around an in-service date requires us to take this action. CapEx spend (capital expenditure spending) will continue to be prudent and minimal as the project works toward approval and construction.”