The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a consortium of energy companies including Enbridge Inc seeking to seize land owned by New Jersey to build a federally approved natural gas pipeline despite the state’s objections, though hurdles remain for the $1 billion project.
The 5-4 ruling, authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, handed a victory to PennEast Pipeline Company LLC, a joint venture seeking to build the 116-mile (187-km) pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. The justices overturned a lower court ruling in favor of New Jersey’s government. The decision enables interstate pipelines to proceed with efforts to seize state-owned lands without a state’s consent as long as federal regulators have approved the project.
But New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the ruling does not end the state’s fight against the PennEast project. “We still have other, ongoing legal challenges to this proposed pipeline, which is unnecessary and would be destructive to New Jersey lands,” Grewal added, as he urged the federal government “to take another look at this harmful proposal.”
PennEast wants the land to build a pipeline to deliver 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas – enough to supply about 5 million homes – from the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania to customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. PennEast said it plans to put the first phase of the project – about 68 miles (110 km) of pipe in Pennsylvania – into service in 2022 and is targeting completion of the second phase – the line from Pennsylvania into New Jersey – in 2023.
The court ruled that a 1938 U.S. law called the Natural Gas Act that lets private energy companies seize “necessary” parcels of land for a project if they have obtained a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can be applied to state-owned land.