Homeowners fight decision to give PennEast Pipeline access to private land

Posted: Updated:

A group of Mercer County homeowners is fighting back against a federal judge’s decision to grant the PennEast Pipeline Company rights to take private land.

The PennEast Pipeline would carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale regions in Pennsylvania through Luzerne County, 115 miles southeast to Mercer County if it was built.

The company says that it would deliver affordable, natural gas to New Jersey. But to do so, the company would have to build the pipeline on some private land and neighbors aren’t happy about this.

The pipeline would pass within 50 feet of the recently widowed Loretta Vahrley’s bedroom.

“It just put my life on hold. I wanted to do things around the house or prepare the place for sale or do repairs but what do I do?” she says.

An attorney representing the neighbors says their best hope to stop the construction may lie with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

“We are hoping that at the end of the process and after the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gives a thorough review, that they will not grant the water quality certification so the pipeline will not be built,” says attorney Timothy Duggan.

Elected leaders of the pipeline-affected towns say they will take their fight on behalf of the neighbors all the way to Washington in a show of bipartisan support.

"I also don't think that it is fair that this for-profit company has the ability working through government to declare eminent domain on private property. This is not for the greater good of anybody but the PennEast Pipeline,” says Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman.

PennEast says that the company will conduct its own studies. An application will then be submitted to the NJ DEP, which will then have about a year to grant or deny the application.

A hearing is also scheduled later in the winter to determine the amount of money PennEast would pay the private landowners for use of their easements.

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