FLEMINGTON, NJ – Hunterdon County is joining the fight against the PennEast pipeline.

The proposed $1 billion PennEast pipeline would be a 120-mile, primarily 36-inch, underground pipeline. It would originate in northeastern Pennsylvania and end at Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington. About a third of the pipeline would be in New Jersey.

It has faced stuff opposition locally.

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Penn East has filed condemnation claims against owners of some Hunterdon farms where the county holds the development rights, Freeholder Suzanne Lagay said at Tuesday’s Freeholder meeting. Those rights were purchased with state, county and local farmland and open space funds, she said.

"The county has over 20 farmland properties that are impacted, where public funds were used to purchase development easements,” Lagay said. “It’s in the best interests of county taxpayers for Hunterdon to oppose PennEast’s application for eminent domain.”

Hunterdon’s effort means it will join with Hunterdon Land Trust, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, other public entities and private property owners in opposition to the condemnation actions.

Representing the county will be attorney Tim Duggan of Stark and Stark, who is also representing many of the other objectors.

“Three years ago, the Freeholders staked out a position opposing PennEast’s proposed abuse of eminent domain,” said Freeholder John Lanza, “extinguishing publicly purchased farm and conservation easements to serve private commercial interests. To protect farmland easements and defend the interests of all Hunterdon property owners who paid for them, this board must now take action to block Penn East.”

Lanza noted that while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of the pipeline allows PennEast to move forward with condemnation proceedings, the company must still obtain permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission and from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“There is a question as to whether permits will ever be issued,” said Freeholder Director Matt Holt. “It is clearly premature to allow Penn East to begin taking properties for pipeline construction.”

Those opposing the condemnation claims must submit responses to the federal District Court in Philadelphia by March 21, according to a press release issued by the county. Arguments before the court are expected on April 5.