It is widely stated that if one does not like the weather in the South, just wait an hour because it will change. Mirroring the sentiment, the Biden administration deviated from its climate-first mantra and backed PennEast and its $1 billion natural gas pipeline.
Shocking spectators from both sides of the oil and gas battlefront, The U.S. Supreme Court announced in February that it would humor and hear PennEast Pipeline Company’s appeal. Looming in the future, the decision rendered will profoundly affect the future of the natural gas industry and pipeline projects throughout the country.
Spanning a length of 120 miles, the pipeline would begin in Pennsylvania and meander through Hunteron and Mercer counties. Construction progress was delayed in 2019 when PennEast was denied the ability to seize land through eminent domain in New Jersey thanks to a federal appeals court ruling.
The Biden Brief
Paralleling the Trump campaign’s persistence in demanding the Supreme Court alter its eminent domain ruling, the Biden administration filed its brief on Monday where the Justice Department argued in favor of the pipeline construction based on the terms of the Natural Gas Act.
The brief furthers that the high court’s ruling is unjust. According to lawyers, PennEast’s right to access and seize properties could not be determined by the Federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s interpretation of the Natural Gas Act and its authority to grant PennEast any degree of permission.
“The (Natural Gas Act) provides ‘exclusive’ jurisdiction to the court of appeals conducting that direct review to ‘affirm, modify, or set aside’ the Commission’s order ‘in whole or in part,’ and makes that court’s judgment ‘final,’ subject to review only by this Court,” sated the brief.
Furthering the argument, lawyers conveyed that pipeline companies indeed have the right to condemn state-owned property for interstate pipeline construction through authorization provided by the Natural Gas Act. Additionally, these property necessities should be determined by the FERC, and the states lack the ability to act on any in which they exhibit interest.
“As the Court has long recognized, the Constitution conferred that authority on the federal government, including the authority to take state-owned land, for projects within the government’s enumerated powers,” the brief states. “And since before the Founding through the present day, the right of eminent domain has been understood to encompass authority for private parties to exercise the right for projects the sovereign deems in the public interest.”
Opposition at Various Levels
While some of Biden’s political allies have expressed disappointment in his decisions, others have been more vocal. Defending New Jersey’s environment, progressive Democrat, Lisa McCormick, claimed federal officials lacked significant fight.
“This is a major betrayal by an administration that promised to address the climate crisis,” said McCormick. “Politics as usual is not going to save lives from a major catastrophe. About 380,000-gallons of oil leaked in 2019 in North Dakota from the Keystone XL, one of the most-watched pipelines in the world. There’s no way to ensure that PennEast is safe.”
McCormick further voiced her disapproval, saying that she and many of her colleagues had hoped that additional pipeline construction projects would succumb to the same fate invoked by the Biden administration on the Keystone XL.
“Someone needs to make FERC understand that it works for the people of the United States, not PennEast,” said McCormick. “For the Biden administration to meet its target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the United States must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 60% below 2005 levels by 2030. We cannot do that if we build more gas pipelines.”
McCormick does not carry the torch of opposition alone. In fact, it has been waged on the local front as well and includes Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper, Doug O’Malley, President of Environment New Jersey, and Dave Pringle, the director of Clean Water Action.
Fighting the pipeline due to proposed elements of environmental harm, opponents cited a surplus of reasons in defense of its position.
- Infliction of environmental harm
- Hosting an explosive pipeline
- Drilling and hydraulic fracturing of an additional 3,000 wells thereby increasing volumes harmful emissions
The PennEast pipeline is calculated to deliver an impressive 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas from the Marcellus Formation to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Supporting figures of this magnitude, pipeline supporters argued and rebuked opposition opinions.
According to nj.com, Ron Morano, who serves as the Executive Director of Affordable Energy New Jersey, voiced his support and felt reassurance, compliments of the Biden brief.
“We learned in February that the Supreme Court rightly recognized the significance of the PennEast pipeline, and today the Biden DOJ agreed,” said Morano. “This project would reduce utility customers’ bills, increase our much-needed gas capacity and provide the type of energy security to avoid self-imposed blackouts like California or weather-related ones like Texas.”
President of Consumer Energy Alliance, David Holt, offered profound insight explaining that the current Supreme Court case does not solely regard the single pipeline project, but instead, the federal government and its power to regulate and intervene in interstate commerce.
“We are pleased that the Biden administration has put the environment and consumers, families and senior citizens across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast above politics,” said Holt. “For too long, consumers in the region have been saddled with high energy prices, largely because of state-level obstruction and activism that disregards common sense, science, and concern for costs for ordinary people and businesses.”
Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]