HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ – Hunterdon County’s Board of Commissioners recently endorsed federal legislation that would prevent pipeline companies from using eminent domain to take private and publicly owned land before projects are approved for all federal and state permits, and called on the state’s U.S. Senators to support the legislation sponsored by Congressman Tom Malinowski.
The county board’s action, supporting the ‘Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act’ that amends the 1938 Natural Gas Act, comes following a U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 decision in favor of the PennEast pipeline’s authority to take state preserved land without the state’s consent.
Deputy Director John E. Lanza said, “The Supreme Court decision was disappointing. And what was equally disappointing, and extremely perplexing, was the Biden Administration’s Justice Department supporting Penn East. This is the same Administration that moved with alacrity when assuming office in January to stop the far more meritorious, and less constitutionally questionable, Keystone XL pipeline.”
Board Director Susan J. Soloway said, “Here in New Jersey, there is bi-partisan consensus on preventing the pipeline company from using eminent domain to take private and publicly supported land, as evidenced by Congressman Malinowski’s legislation. I’ve been asked by residents who do not live in the communities through which the pipeline will pass why the County Board is so involved. The fact is that all property taxpayers in the county have contributed to the open space trust fund and those monies have been used to preserve farmland and open space throughout the county, including significant acreage in the proposed path of the pipeline. The Supreme Court ruling will allow PennEast to take land preserved by the taxpayers, all the taxpayers, at potentially a lower payment than the actual land value.”
“PennEast still faces numerous legal and regulatory hurdles. The project must still receive approvals from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Delaware River Basin Commission and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Under the federal legislation their use of eminent domain would be held until those permits are obtained,” Lanza said.
The Board of Commissioners’ resolution calls for immediate action on the Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act and for U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, as well as all members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, to support the bill.
“They cannot allow Congress to fail the property owners and taxpayers who are being negatively affected by the Supreme Court ruling,” Soloway said.