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Judge rules gas pipeline company can start taking land

December 14, 2018

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A natural gas pipeline company seeking to build a line from Pennsylvania into New Jersey can go ahead with taking property and compensating landowners as part of the roughly $1.1 billion project, a federal judge in New Jersey ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti said Friday that PennEast can begin taking immediate possession of properties in New Jersey along the roughly 120-mile proposed pipeline. The route would stretch from northeastern Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey.

The 50-page ruling says PennEast offered $3,000 for access to parts of land where the pipeline would travel.

The judge specifies the order isn’t final and that PennEast first has to satisfy environmental conditions laid out by federal regulators. But the ruling is a setback for towns, landowners, the state and environmental groups, who all sought to stop the company’s use of eminent domain.

“Although disappointed, we are even more steadfast in our resolve to stop this project by proving that this it is not needed,” said Vincent DiBianca in a statement. He’s a resident of Delaware Township and owns a small farm along the potential pipeline’s path.

PennEast did not respond to a request for comment but had earlier said that it plans to move forward with the long-stalled project.

The proposal won federal regulatory approval earlier this year, but New Jersey regulators and the attorney general have argued in court against the company.

Landowners would be paid under the ruling.

PennEast says the project will bring jobs and needed natural gas to the region, but opponents argue that the it will harm the environment and isn’t needed despite a federal approval certifying it as such.

Earlier this year, New Jersey denied a permit for the project, but the company said at the time that it planned to move forward. A construction permit is also pending in Pennsylvania.

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