Court Signals Approval for State Defying PennEast Pipeline

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — Critics of a natural-gas pipeline that would cut through nearly 150 private properties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey pushed the Third Circuit on Monday to reverse an order condemning the lands.

Though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the PennEast Pipeline Co. permission to seize lands in Hunterdon County that are held in a public trust, construction of the $1 billion pipeline has been held up by the New Jersey’s refusal to issue a construction permit.

New Jersey’s Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Feigenbaum argued before the Third Circuit this afternoon that nothing in the Natural Gas Act says allows a private company to take land by eminent domain. 

“This is about whether states maintain a certain right,” Feigenbaum said.

Feigenbaum faced stern questioning, with U.S. Circuit Judge Kent Jordan saying his proposition would “allow states to aggressively claim land,” but the panel proved even tougher on PennEast’s attorney.

U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas pushed back specifically when James Graziano with Archer Law made the case that the Natural Gas Act gives PennEast the power to claim all properties necessary for the project.

“It doesn’t say state property,” said Bibas, referring to the law. “It says nothing about state owners.” 

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Nygaard rounded out Monday’s panel, observing the proceedings virtually through a digital monitor, but asked no questions.

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