It has been widely reported that the judge has offered a ruling on the HALT PennEast trespass suit. In the ruling, the judge sided with the defendants (PennEast) and dismissed most of the claims. Here is one of the stories on this:
And here is PennEast’s press release on the matter:
I’ve read the court’s findings, and while it is true that the judge has dismissed most of the claims, PennEast’s crowing is entirely incorrect.
Here’s the facts: the judge found that several of the claims were valid claims of trespass, and in one case PennEast flat out admitted to trespass in open court, but tried to wiggle out of it by claiming it was not “intentional” trespass. The court completely slapped down PennEast’s attempt to redefine the laws for their own purposes.
But despite this, the judge dismissed the claims because her court could not offer the relief that the plaintiffs were asking for.
In incident after incident, the court found there was a sufficient pleading for trespass, but dismissed the claim because they could not give the plaintiffs what they wanted.
What the plaintiffs wanted was the illegally obtained survey data returned, to ensure that it wasn’t given to FERC or other agencies to further the project (e.g. no fruit from the poisoned tree), and to stop PennEast from doing this in the future.
What the court found was that there was no precedent for giving the plaintiffs that. The court found that only monetary damages could be offered.
And in fact, the finding notes in several cases that the plaintiffs can still seek monetary damages against PennEast.
This is clearly a setback for those of us against PennEast. But this isn’t the whole story.
The other side is PennEast’s reaction. Any reasonable corporation would put out a simple press release saying “we thank the court for it’s decision”. Instead, PennEast’s Patricia Kornick once again puts her foot in it.
In her press release, she says:
“Unfortunately, some outside interests are willing to say or do anything to mislead the public. We’re pleased the Court agreed with PennEast and dismissed the claims. It’s unfortunate that HALT has wasted the Court’s time and taxpayer resources with this filing”
I’m curious what outside interests Kornick is referring to. The suit was brought by landowners who claim their land was trespassed on by PennEast and their agents. The court found the complaints withstood the test of law in several instances. In what way is this an “outside interest”? These are landowners directly impacted by the pipeline. About as far away from “outside’ as you can get.
She goes on to say, “The actions and false claims by HALT leading to the July 7 dismissal…”.
I’m not sure if Ms. Kornick is speaking out of ignorance and didn’t read the ruling, or if she just likes to make things up as she goes along, but the judge did not find these claims to be false. In fact, she found them to be credible. She just couldn’t do anything about it.
Kornick goes on to call HALT an “extreme group“. Homeowners, farmers, and property owners protecting their property using entirely legal means is “extreme”?
Kornick then calls the Delaware Riverkeeper’s suit “frivolous”, despite the seriousness of its claims, and does the same for Eastern Environmental Law Center, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s filing to FERC asking for an evidentiary hearing.
These are not the words of a responsible company trying to work with the community. This is an arrogant, out of control company that regularly twists the truth and goes out of its way to antagonize landowners, businesses, and towns that are going to shoulder the full impact of their project with no demonstrated benefit.
The case isn’t over, and I expect there will be more information on this coming soon.