East Bridgewater, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. (Photo: LFLamb / Flickr)
Earthjustice is representing a concerned landowner in challenging an application from the Laser Northeast Gathering Company—a gas pipeline company seeking to operate in northeast Pennsylvania—for a Certificate of Public Convenience, which would grant the company eminent domain powers, allowing it to force landowners to sell rights-of-way for pipelines through their property. Earthjustice has entered into a proposed settlement in order to ensure that either:
- The application is denied (and the applicant is denied eminent domain power), or
- The application is granted, but only with conditions protecting health, safety and the environment.
Pennsylvania is expecting construction of thousands of miles of pipelines to transmit Marcellus Shale gas. The pipeline would be the first part of an extensive system linking potentially hundreds of gas wells in Susquehanna County, Penn., to the interstate Millennium Pipeline in Broome County, New York. This is the first time a company building gathering lines—which take gas from wells to larger transmission lines—has sought public utility status in the development of the region’s Marcellus Shale deposit. If this application is granted without the conditions that Earthjustice is supporting in the proposed settlement, it will set a precedent for the industry and enable widespread seizure of land for pipeline construction throughout the Marcellus region, without any siting oversight.
In December 2010, an administrative law judge recommended that Laser Northeast be denied a Certificate of Public Convenience. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will make a final decision on Laser Northeast’s application after the parties have had an opportunity to respond to the judge’s recommendations, most likely early in 2011.