On January 19, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the project known as the PennEast Pipeline. In this project, a consortium of utility providers is proposing to construct this 108 mile natural gas pipeline from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey. In the Lehigh Valley, the pipeline will potentially impact properties in Moore Township, Upper Nazareth Township, Lower Nazareth Township, Bethlehem Township, as well as Lower Saucon and Williams Townships.
PennEast has been in discussion with property owners to acquire the relevant easements and rights-of-way for the construction and maintenance of this pipeline. However, with the grant of this approval, Penn East is provided with the authority to involuntarily “condemn” an individual’s property interest to facilitate such project using what is referred to as the power or “eminent domain”. While the utilities are provided the authority to involuntarily condemn the property, by law, a property owner is still entitled to be pair “just compensation” for such property interest.
Involvement of experienced real estate counsel through such proceedings and litigation, from the earliest possible time, is essential to maximize this “just compensation” and to protect a property owners rights in such proceedings. It is noteworthy, that Pennsylvania law does include a limited reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs for such proceedings. Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba has assisted several clients including developers, homeowners and healthcare providers in resolving such claims.