via lancasteronline's Tom Knapp, a summary of yesterday's events in a Reading court:
"A U.S. district judge on Thursday declined to grant builders of the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline immediate possession of land owned by a religious order near Columbia.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl said he could file a decision Friday or sometime next week. He also might wait until an injunction hearing later this month, he told attorneys in Reading on Thursday.
'I don’t know what I’m going to do at this time,' he said."
"Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., a Williams subsidiary, will take the nuns to court on July 17 for an injunction granting them the right to seize the land via eminent domain.
However, attorneys for Transco are now trying to take the land sooner, arguing that a prayer arbor, or outdoor chapel, recently installed on the right-of-way causes 'irreparable harm' to the project.
Transco attorney Elizabeth Witmer said Thursday the company 'will have to clear all of that before it can begin construction.'
The protest group Lancaster Against Pipelines built the small arbor in a cornfield in the pipeline’s path with permission from the religious order.
'We can certainly affirm that this is a religious cause,' Sister Sara Dwyer, a spokeswoman for the religious order, told LNP in June.
Dwyer said the order opposes the pipeline’s construction because the group supports sustainable energy, opposes fossil fuels and believes in the “sacredness of creation.”
In June, Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for Williams, called the prayer arbor a 'blatant attempt to impede pipeline construction.'”
The statements from Williams/Transco's lawyer and spokesperson are both clearly melodramatic and dishonest; shallow attempts to characterize Williams/Transco as the victims rather than the very clear aggressor.
To a billion dollar corporation preparing to tear a deep and permanent gouge through 36 miles of the county, the few boards and posts of this chapel are hardly "irreparable harm"; nor are they an impediment to proposed work (not to mention the fact that the property *does not belong to Williams/Transco*).
Williams/Transco has not yet balked at barreling under the Conestoga River and dozens of other waterways; the chapel can pose no *physical* challenge to the equipment- and resource-laden corporation. The chapel does raise profound ethical questions about the violation of rights by corporations in the county.
And to Stockton's charge that the chapel, the nuns' statement of ethics, and the proud commitment of hundreds of Lancastrians to stand against this destructive and unwanted project are a 'blatant attempt to impede' the pipeline? Yes, sir, they indeed are.
Because lawmakers, federal agencies, local municipal leaders and service organizations, lawyers, judges and our federal government have lost the ability to defend Lancastrians' health and homes, we are being forced to put our bodies and our first amendment rights between our families and this corporation.
Image: by Chris Knight for lancasteronline.com