PennEast has stopped pursuing gas pipeline project due to N.J. regulatory hurdles,

Updated: 2:54 p.m. | Published: 11:50 a.m., September 27, 2021, by Pamela Sroka-Holzmann | For and Rudy Miller | For

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court victory allowing PennEast Pipeline to condemn land in New Jersey over the objections of state government, a consortium of energy companies behind the project announced Monday it would cease the project due to a lack of permits.

The backers for the pipeline are examining further steps needed to start the Pennsylvania portion of the project, but for now “PennEast has ceased all further development of the project,” spokeswoman Pat Kornick said in a statement Monday.

PennEast Pipeline Co. said in a statement it received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for the 120-mile pipeline to run from Luzerne County to Mercer County, New Jersey. However, it still needs water quality certification and wetlands permits required under the Clean Water Act.

“Therefore, the PennEast partners, following extensive evaluation and discussion, recently determined further development of the project is no longer supported. Accordingly, PennEast has ceased all further development of the project,” the statement said.

Although development has ceased, PennEast is “examining the proper next steps in the regulatory process as it pertains to the Phase One Amendment pending at FERC,” Kornick said. Phase One is the Pennsylvania portion of the pipeline, a 68-mile section from northeastern Pennsylvania to Bethlehem Township, Northampton County.

The $1 billion pipeline gained the backing in June from the U.S. Supreme Court to seize state-owned and protected lands for the project’s route. The decision then upheld precedent that energy companies rely on to build pipelines around the nation, and allowed the PennEast project to move forward.

 But for now, PennEast will suspend seizing land through eminent domain while it works through the New Jersey regulatory hurdles, according to Kornick.

Attorney Anthony Corby of Hershey, Pa., said he represents 18 of the landowners involved in condemnation proceedings. He said in August that PennEast decided to drop its condemnation lawsuits.

“My clients are very happy,” he said in August. Online court records show PennEast dropped condemnation proceedings Friday against all of his clients. The cases were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be filed again later. Six other eminent domain challenges were also dismissed Friday, online records say.

The news is being applauded by environmental activists who have fought the project since it was first announced in 2014.

“After seven years of battle the people and the Delaware River have stopped this dangerous and unnecessary pipeline,’ said Jeff Tittel, the former Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club “This victory shows the power of the people coming together unite in common purpose to fight climate change.”

“We knew we would get here eventually. It was just a matter of time,” said Maya van Rossum, the leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a staunch opponent to the PennEast Pipeline.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also welcomed the decision, noting in a statement that his administration has spent the past four years fighting against “the unnecessary construction of the PennEast Pipeline, which was wrong for New Jersey and would have destroyed acres of New Jersey’s conserved land and threatened species.”

“We have always said that this pipeline was dangerous and unnecessary,” said New Jersey Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck. “Today’s decision is a tremendous victory for the people of the Garden State.”

Online court records show eminent domain proceedings have ended for four properties in Moore Township, five in Lower Nazareth, one in Lower Saucon, three in Bethlehem Township and eight in Williams Township in Northampton County. They have ended for one property in Riegelsville and two in Durham Township in Bucks County.