Today, the U.S. Supreme Court removed a major roadblock for the $1 billion PennEast gas pipeline project. This ruling reversed a Third Circuit decision that project developers could not seize New Jersey-owned land for the pipeline. Despite the observed struggle in weighing the dueling positions during oral arguments in April, the 5-4 decision wound up favoring PennEast when it came down to it.
Since receiving FERC approval in January 2018, the project has faced a long series of legal challenges. Previously, a Third Circuit ruling held that eminent domain provisions in the Natural Gas Act do not trump New Jersey’s 11th Amendment sovereign immunity from condemnation suits by private companies. PennEast attorney, Paul Clement asserted there is no sovereign immunity issue at hand because PennEast is essentially standing in the shoes of the federal government for the eminent domain process because the government has delegated that authority to the NGA. This position was backed by the Supreme Court; the PennEast pipeline will be able to complete construction here in the near future.
Because of the regulatory roadblock, the pipeline developer decided to build the pipeline in two phases – the first in Pennsylvania and the second in New Jersey. In the Pennsylvania portion of the pipeline, PennEast is expected to be operational in November of this year.
The Supreme Court’s ruling allows the PennEast pipeline to build on state-owned land necessary for the critical infrastructure project’s completion. Decisions as such bolster both state-specific and nationwide critical infrastructure that is so desperately needed during this time of volatile energy resources. The New Jersey portion of the line is expected to be completed in 2023.