March 10, 2021

Watson Coleman, Malinowski Call on Biden Administration to Reverse its Stance Supporting PennEast Pipeline

Today, Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Tom Malinowski issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court defending PennEast’s ability to seize land owned by New Jersey for pipeline construction.

“We are disappointed that the U.S. Department of Justice has submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in which it defends the PennEast Pipeline Company’s efforts to exercise eminent domain to seize public lands. We agree with the State of New Jersey – and the 2019 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit – that the Eleventh Amendment expressly bars private companies, like PennEast, from condemning state-owned land for their own private use. New Jerseyans should not have to live in fear that their land will be taken and irrevocably altered to make way for a pipeline project that our state doesn’t want or need.  

“Over the past several years, we have met with landowners who live up and down the proposed pipeline route and have seen firsthand the farms it would ruin, the water it would pollute, and way of life it would destroy. As policymakers, we have been active and steadfast in our opposition to its construction, and we will continue to pursue legislative and regulatory remedies to protect landowners in New Jersey should the Supreme Court ultimately rule in an unfavorable manner later this year. 

  • In August 2019, we called on the New Department of Environmental Protection to reject PennEast’s re-application for the Freshwater Wetlands and Water Quality Permits needed to move the project forward. 
  • In October 2019, we sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging it to immediately issue a stop work order for all of PennEast’s land-clearing and construction-related activities. 
  • In December 2019, we introduced legislation to amend the Natural Gas Act to prevent pipeline companies from using eminent domain to take land from private citizens and to start making changes to it – such as cutting down trees – until they have obtained all of the federal and state permits necessary for the construction and operation of a pipeline project. This bill passed the House late last year and was included again in the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act, which was re-introduced by House Energy and Commerce Committee leadership in March 2021. 
  • In April 2020, after PennEast filed an amendment requesting to construct the pipeline in two phases, we urged FERC to reject PennEast’s request because it amounted to a wholly new project and, therefore, required FERC to do a full application review under Section 7 of the NGA, a needs analysis of the project’s economic viability, a review of the precedent agreements, and an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • In May 2020, we introduced legislation to ensure that landowners are able to exercise their legal right to challenge energy projects that disrupt their property prior to construction.

“Whatever its views on the legal issues raised by this case, we urge the administration to stand with our constituents, with New Jersey, and with its stated commitment to environmental protection in opposing this unnecessary pipeline.”