Homeowners and residents in Mercer and Hunterdon counties that would be directly impacted by the proposed PennEast pipeline have joined forces to create the group – HALT PennEast ("Homeowners Against Land Taking") to step up their efforts to stop construction of the pipeline. To represent its interests, the group has hired Wiley Rein, a leading Washington D.C. law firm known for its expertise in complex, high-stakes regulatory, litigation, constitutional and transactional matters.
"We will use our fast-growing collective resources to stop the PennEast pipeline," said Vincent DiBianca of Delaware Township, one of the homeowners leading the group. "Contrary to PennEast’s public relations spin, we intend to prove that there is no valid justification for taking our homes, farms and properties and endangering our livelihoods and families’ well-being for a pipeline that is not needed, not wanted and harmful. We’re committed to putting the breaks on a proposed pipeline that when you look under the covers would solely benefit the private companies behind it, not the public." PennEast is owned partly by PSE&G, New Jersey Resources and South Jersey Gas.
If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the pipeline, PennEast could use eminent domain to take the private properties it needs to build the pipeline, against the wishes of the homeowners. DiBianca said, "We are already building our case that eminent domain for corporate gain is unconstitutional." A recent statewide poll by FDU’s PublicMind for ReThink Energy NJ found that 87 percent of New Jersey residents are concerned about "the seizure of private property for private companies" to build pipelines.
"All New Jerseyans need to know that they too could wake up one day and learn that a massive gas pipeline is planned to go right through their properties and communities and they too could face the loss of their homes, farms, and businesses," said Michael Spille of West Amwell and a member of HALT.
Several homeowners along the proposed pipeline route will lose their ability to farm, temporarily or permanently, as well as rights to use their own land, while still paying taxes on the property. "The livelihoods of many homeowners will be irreparably damaged," said Laura Wilson from Holland Township. "For one family in particular, the pipeline would run the entire length of their farm, taking out apple and Asian pear orchards, as well as permanently blocking access to their hayfields. Their ability to farm will be destroyed."
HALT PennEast has identified several areas of inaccurate and misleading claims in what PennEast Pipeline Company LLC has identified as rationale for constructing this pipeline through private lands, including:
Myth #1: Pipeline would help to meet region’s energy demand
Not so. The Proposed PennEast Pipeline would create a 53% supply surplus above the current level of consumption in New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania. The gas is bound for other markets and is not needed in Jersey. However, the companies that make up PennEast would greatly profit, at the expense of the affected homeowners and communities.
Myth #2: Pipeline will bring a boost to the economy
Not the case. In the end, shockingly, only 10 permanent jobs would result from construction of the pipeline in New Jersey according to an in-depth analysis by The Goodman Group that was released by ReThink Energy NJ in Nov., 2015. This hardly justifies taking private property from homeowners and threatening their livelihoods, including many farmers directly in the path of the pipeline. The local tourism and real-estate industries could also suffer as scenic areas are marred by construction and property-values are reduced.
DiBianca says, "The real economic growth opportunity for NJ and the country is in clean renewable energy jobs, not in the dirty, non-renewable fossil fuels of coal, oil and gas." As the Union of Concerned Scientists states, "it’s wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass that provides substantial benefits for our climate, our health and our economy".
"Our initiative goes beyond protecting our own properties. We are not interested in moving this to our neighbors’ properties or elsewhere in the state. We and our partners are doing diligent homework to establish that NJ doesn’t need it at all," said Maureen Syrnick of Kingwood Township.
The event was held at the home of Jacqueline Evans in Delaware Township. The proposed pipeline would come right up her driveway and within 100 feet of her home. "I can’t sleep at night because I worry about the safety of my children," said Evans. "The vast majority of homeowners in the path of the pipeline are adamantly opposed to this and won’t be bought off by PennEast at any price."
To date, PennEast has not been granted access to about 70 percent of the proposed route in New Jersey due to homeowner opposition. The project is behind schedule as a result. "Our resolve is strengthening and we are pooling our resources legally and otherwise for the long haul," said DiBianca. "We are going to assertively engage with FERC, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and other decision-makers so they are made fully aware of our grounded and vehement objections."
HALT PennEast is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to stop the unwanted, unneeded and harmful proposed PennEast pipeline by aggregating our resources, talent and commitment to protect our homes, farms, properties and enterprise and ensure the well being of our families, livelihoods and communities.