Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
There is a deliberate effort by the William Penn Foundation and its surrogates to launch frivolous attacks on the PennEast Pipeline: the PennEast Hassle.
A couple of radical fractivist groups, aided and abetted by a few landowners (members of said groups) have filed a frivolous lawsuit on Monday in New Jersey Superior Court against PennEast Pipeline claiming surveyors have illegally trespassed on private property to conduct surveys–against the wishes of said radicals, some of whom happen to be landowners in the path of the proposed pipeline.
PennEast Pipeline is a $1 billion, 118-mile pipeline project that will run from near Wilkes-Barre, PA to near Trenton, NJ. The two groups behind this latest sleazy lawsuit are Homeowners Against Land Taking – PennEast Inc. (HALT PennEast) and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
There’s nothing like a good lawsuit to drive more donations. “Help! We’re David and we’re suing Goliath. We need YOUR money.” Pathetic. PennEast has responded that the claims of trespassing to survey are (our words) horse manure. PennEast checks carefully before entering a property to survey. The pipeline company said when they get a copy of the frivolous lawsuit they will mount a vigorous defense. The radicals just may have bitten off more than they can chew this time:
Seven New Jersey landowners, along with two environmental groups, filed suit against the PennEast pipeline company on Tuesday for trespass. HALT PennEast, which stands for “homeowners against land taking,” along with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the seven residents filed suit in New Jersey Superior Court. The action marks a new tactic in the ongoing battle against new pipelines built to carry Marcellus Shale.
The landowners’ attorney Steven Richardson says state law requires that surveyors have property owner’s permission before accessing their land.
“The evidence provided to the court demonstrates a pattern and practice of a multi-year campaign of trespassing and nuisance that violates New Jersey law,” Richardson said. “We believe the action is governed solely by New Jersey Law and we believe the law is clear that you’re not permitted to enter someone’s land without consent.”
…Plaintiffs in the lawsuit accuse PennEast surveyors of sneaking onto land without authorization.
“Over the past year and a half, we have lived with continuous anxiety from PennEast surveyors sneaking or just blatantly walking onto our property,” said T.C. Buchanan in a release. “I would leave my home and get calls from neighbors that they were back. All this has happened while PennEast continues to broadcast their outright false claims that they are working with homeowners.”
Michele Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation said the organization has documentation of surveyors trespassing on the Copper Creek Preserve in Kingwood Township.
And, there’s this:
Seven residents in Mercer and Hunterdon counties whose property is in the path of the proposed $1.2 billion PennEast pipeline on Monday filed a lawsuit against the company claiming PennEast has been illegally surveying their property without permission.
The residents were joined by the group Homeowners Against Land Taking – PennEast Inc. (HALT PennEast) and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in filing the suit, which asks the court to stop PennEast from further trespassing and from using any information from surveys they obtained illegally, according to the suit.
“We are doing what any landowner anywhere would do when faced with repeated invasions of their property rights, ” Jacqueline Evans one of the residents who brought the suit. “Opinions on natural gas pipelines do not matter in this case. What matters here is that PennEast ignored landowner rights, our written direction not to enter private property and our express denials of permission to survey.”
…The suit says PennEast has flown survey planes and helicopters at altitudes as low as 300 feet above residents’ properties and has tried to conceal their operations when surveying without permission.
“It’s really been a nightmare,” said TC Buchanan, a Delaware Township resident who is part of the suit.
Buchanan said she has experienced low-flying aircraft trying to survey her property, which she has repeatedly refused to PennEast permission to do.
“They fly so low you’re afraid their going to hit our house or the barn,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan also said that PennEast representatives have tried to access her property while she was not home, only to have neighbors call her while she was away to report the PennEast surveyor sighting or call the police themselves.
“You have to be constantly on guard, because it feels like they send them when they think we’re not home,” Buchanan said. “It feels like we don’t have any privacy. We can’t com and go as we please.”
The aim, of course, is to stop PennEast – not to be reasonable and work with PennEast, as this screenshot from the HALT PennEast website so perfectly demonstrates:
These radicals are completely rigid and totally unreasonable (not able to be reasoned with) on the topic of natural gas or anything remotely related to it.
The suit asks that the court move swiftly to block further surveying and PennEast’s use of previous survey data because the summer deadline for the company to complete its application to federal regulators is approaching.
“Unless illegally obtained survey data is deemed inadmissible, the harm from previously conducted unlawful surveys will become irreversible once FERC completes its environmental review,” the suit says.
Here is PennEast’s response:
Following is a statement by Pat Kornick, spokesperson for PennEast Pipeline Company, regarding alleged trespassing.
“While the opposition tactic of filing a lawsuit is not unique to PennEast, it clearly demonstrates the great lengths that those opposed to the Project will go to try to discredit the many environmental, practical and economic benefits the PennEast Pipeline Project will deliver to local families and businesses. When PennEast receives the lawsuit, PennEast will review it and take the appropriate next steps to defend itself against what we believe will prove to be a meritless, frivolous lawsuit and is confident the courts will find in PennEast’s favor.
“PennEast holds its employees and contractors to the highest standards and employs robust procedures to review survey plans prior to initiating on-the-ground surveys. This process includes daily review and confirmation for which properties PennEast has survey permission.
“If a landowner believes there has been a trespassing incident, the landowner immediately should contact PennEast to promptly investigate the situation. Through the course of this Project, allegations regarding trespassing incidences generally have involved PennEast’s use of public right of way and not private “Though most instances have involved public right of ways, which PennEast has the right to occupy in the course of its survey activities, PennEast again urges landowners to contact PennEast if they believe an infraction is occurring. There is certainly no systemic pattern of PennEast violating landowner property “Upon receipt of the lawsuit, PennEast will carefully evaluate the allegations and will respond accordingly.”
Editor’s Note: The William Penn Foundation, special interest funder of the Delaware Povertykeeper (a/k/a Riverkeeper) dirty tricks outfit and other PennEast opposition has given the New Jersey Conservation Foundation $714,451 (not to mention other grants) to pull stunts such as this. Interestingly, HALT Penn East’s donation page also doesn’t tell anyone who they really are and says to call or write for more information, meaning someone (either another special interest or their lawyer) is hiding behind their skirts.
Harassment is, of course, one of the tools of the trade for these people and Maya van Rossum recently participated in any webinar telling how “FERC Not Our Friend” and how to interfere, slow down and otherwise engage in frivolous actions to delay important projects such as the PennEast Pipeline:
This is how these radicals work. Frivolous is as frivolous does.