Dec. 11–A federal judge has granted PennEast Pipeline the right of eminent domain, allowing the company to take a portion of property in Carbon County for the construction of its controversial 120-mile pipeline.
The ruling by Judge Malachy E. Mannion of the Middle District of Pennsylvania last week is the first of its kind for PennEast, whose natural gas pipeline would cut through Northampton County on its way from Luzerne County to Mercer County in New Jersey.
Mannion’s order grants the pipeline company .60 acres of permanent easement on property owned by Susana Bullrich of Towamensing Township for “operating, maintaining, altering, repairing, replacing and removing a 36-inch-diameter pipeline and related equipment.”
Another .60 acres is granted as temporary workspace during the construction period.
There are approximately 535 landowners along the entire route in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to PennEast officials.
In February, the pipeline company filed 185 eminent domain lawsuits in federal court — 134 in New Jersey and 51 in Pennsylvania — to access property in both states for land surveys.
Bullrich’s attorney, Anne Marie Garti, said Tuesday that Bullrich was the last “holdout” property owner in Pennsylvania who had refused to grant access for the pipeline company to survey her land.
The property is about eight acres and Bullrich has owned it for more than 30 years, Garti said, speaking on behalf of Bullrich.
The Towamensing Township resident could decide to appeal the decision, she said.
PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said the eminent domain decision allows the company to gain access to Bullrich’s property so it can be surveyed, though Mannion’s ruling also gives the company the right to construct there.
Kornick said Bullrich’s case was the only one in Pennsylvania that required a judge’s intervention at this time.
The other 50 Pennsylvania landowners agreed to allow PennEast to survey their properties, so the company did not move forward in those eminent domain proceedings, she said.
PennEast needs data from land surveys to collect permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Construction of the pipeline cannot begin until the permits are issued.
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