The nation’s highest court will decide the future of a $1 billion pipeline planned in New Jersey and set a precedent for pipeline construction across the country.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Wednesday that it would hear the appeal of the PennEast Pipeline Company, which plans to build a 120-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, across the Delaware River and into Hunterdon and Mercer counties.
The pipeline now has one last chance to overcome heavy resistance from the state and local New Jersey landowners on its route, who are opposed to its construction. At the heart of the case, PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey, is a central question: Can a private company seize land owned and protected by the state through eminent domain to build a pipeline?
PennEast first proposed its pipeline in 2014, selling the project as a necessary tool to bring more natural gas to the Northeast, where demand for the fossil fuel is rising. PennEast has sought to use eminent domain powers to secure land along the planned route. Such authority is typically only granted to government agencies, but the Natural Gas Act, which became federal law in 1938, allows private companies to use the power if they can prove a pipeline serves a public need.
In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that PennEast could not use eminent domain powers to seize land owned by the state of New Jersey for pipeline construction. Later that year, PennEast appealed its case to the U.S. Supreme Court and has since been waiting for a decision on whether or not the justice’s would review the case.