A proposal to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the banks of
the Delaware River has rekindled a centuries-old border dispute
between New Jersey and Delaware.
New Jersey officials say the LNG plant would produce 1.2 billion
cubic feet of natural gas per day - enough to supply every home in
New Jersey, Delaware, and eastern Pennsylvania. Economists estimate
that the project could generate more than $1 billion in new jobs and
other economic benefits in the region.
But officials in neighboring Delaware refuse to allow the Jersey-
based project to go forward. They say the new plant would threaten
Delaware's coastal environment and could become a target for a
On Tuesday, New Jersey and Delaware submit their differences to
the US Supreme Court in an attempt to solve an interstate feud that
stems from a land grant made by the Duke of York in 1682.
It marks the third time in 130 years the high court has been
asked to address the border dispute. In 1877, it was a disagreement
over fishing rights. In 1934, it was joint claims to oyster beds.
At issue in the most recent dispute is how much control Delaware
can exert over development projects on New Jersey's side of the
Normally, Delaware would have no authority to stop such a project
under way in New Jersey. But the LNG plant requires construction of
a pier stretching 2,000 feet into the Delaware River, where up to
three tankers per week would be offloaded.
Under the 1682 land grant, Delaware owns and controls the entire
river in the northern part of the state, including the submerged
lands on the New Jersey side of the river where the pier and tanker
loading area would be located.
So while Delaware could not stop construction of the plant on the
river bank, it is claiming the power to effectively block the
project by refusing to allow construction of the pier and tanker
The border battle has prompted some tongue-in-cheek banter about
mustering the Delaware National Guard to protect its territory.
Jersey officials responded by saying they might redeploy the
battleship New Jersey, now a tourist attraction, into the contested
More recently officials on both sides have declined comment,
saying their positions are set out in legal briefs.
The dispute traces back to a 325-year-old real estate deal
between England's Duke of York and William Penn. In August 1682, the
duke granted a large section of what would become Delaware to Penn.
The boundary of the grant was set by drawing a circle with a 12-
mile radius centered on the courthouse in New Castle, Del. A portion
of that same circle can be seen on modern maps as Delaware's curved
northern border with Pennsylvania.
Where the unusual border arrangement gets legally tricky is the
point at which it meets New Jersey at the Delaware River. …