Legislation Would Require Private Pipeline Companies to Demonstrate Public Purpose in Order to Use Eminent Domain
Assembly Democrats John McKeon and Mila Jasey have introduced legislation to place land access limitations on a proposal for the Pilgrim Pipeline, a 178-mile Albany, N.Y. to Linden oil pipeline that would carry highly-flammable Bakken shale oil across 30 towns in New Jersey.
The bill (A-4178) would require a private pipeline company, like Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, to demonstrate to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) that a proposal serves the public interest in order to access private property for its use.
In determining whether a private pipeline serves the public interest, the BPU would consider the following factors: whether the pipeline avoids unnecessary disruptions to the environment; whether it enhances competitive transportation alternatives; the possibility that construction will exceed what anticipated future demand requires; and whether the pipeline avoids the unnecessary exercise of eminent domain.
The measure would clarify current law, which does not explicitly subject private pipeline companies to the same BPU oversight as public utility pipelines when exercising eminent domain.
“Pilgrim Pipeline has yet to demonstrate how having this pipeline go through property owners’ backyards and environmentally sensitive areas in our state can possibly benefit the people of New Jersey,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “An oil pipeline that puts the public welfare at risk by crossing the Highlands, which provide drinking water for New Jersey families, and the Great Swamp, home to countless plants and animals, is a detriment to our state. We unequivocally refuse to put the will of a private company above the rights of the private citizens we represent.”
In requiring private pipeline companies to prove a public purpose and adhere to the same oversight as public utilities, the bill would further protect public health and safety, McKeon said.
Jasey noted that some New Jersey residents have received intimidating letters from Pilgrim Pipeline suggesting that refusal to allow surveyors on their land may result in condemnation action.
“By using strong-arm tactics and sending letters threatening to acquire homeowners’ private property through eminent domain, Pilgrim Pipeline has shown nothing but utter disregard for the people of this state,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “There has been, thus far, no demonstration of any benefit whatsoever. When one considers the potential environmental dangers and the impact this is certain to have on property values, the reason for the strong bipartisan opposition to this proposal becomes abundantly clear.
“Pilgrim Pipeline’s tactics of intimidation are just another reason we will continue the fight to stop this plan.”