Federal Appeals Court Rules PennEast Cannot Condemn State-Owned Lands

Posted September 10, 2019

PennEast has been dealt a serious setback in its attempt to build an unsafe and unneeded pipeline through Mercer and Hunterdon Counties. Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower federal court decision that had allowed PennEast to seize state lands. The Third Circuit ruled that PennEast, as a private company, lacked legal authority to seize or condemn state-owned lands in federal court, in a case brought by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on behalf of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and other state resource agencies.

The decision means that PennEast no longer has authority to condemn more than 40 properties preserved by the state, many in partnership with counties, municipalities and private land trusts.

“Today’s decision is a huge win for New Jersey taxpayers and everyone who stood up to PennEast by working hard to protect thousands of acres of preserved open space and farmland. The decision makes it clear that PennEast seriously overstepped the law by trying to condemn state-owned lands. It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that this project will ever be built,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and ReThink Energy NJ. “Our congratulations to Attorney General Grubir Grewal on this groundbreaking decision.”

“In a carefully reasoned opinion, the Third Circuit found that PennEast cannot do an end-run around the Constitution. The Court’s opinion, grounded in unbroken Supreme Court jurisprudence, honors the state’s sovereign right to protect its conservation lands from a private pipeline company’s attempt to seize them in court,” said Jennifer Danis, staff attorney at Columbia University Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic, representing New Jersey Conservation Foundation, a party to the Third Circuit litigation.



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