Jeopardizing the Water for Another 70k Lancastrians

The more light we shine on the approval process for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, the more reckless it appears to be. (For many residents not yet paying attention, it's still easier to accept that the process is haphazard rather than outright illegal, immoral or dangerous.) Now city officials are reporting their concerns about how the pipeline would cross a main water line that serves 70,000 residents:

"With construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline possibly only a month away, Lancaster city officials said Friday they still don’t know how, or exactly where, the pipeline will cross a main water line that 70,000 residents rely on for drinking water.

Nor has the city signed an easement agreement allowing the gas pipeline to cross the city’s right of way.

'We’re very frustrated and angry,' Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city’s public works director, said Friday morning.

She said the city had repeatedly written to Williams Partners, the pipeline’s builder, without receiving a reply.

Asked about the situation on Friday, Williams spokesman Christopher  Stockton said the company is aware of the water line from engineering drawings and it will be clearly flagged, along with other buried lines, prior to pipeline construction."

We've all learned that Williams, via their spokesperson Chris Stockton, will say whatever sounds best, like JOBS and PROGRESS; and we all know that Williams has continued to treat residents with the kind of condescension that only an entitled corporation can get away with--but to hear that they've snowed or ignored city officials in charge of our water safety, with the same disregard they've displayed toward residents, is yet another degree of enlightenment for the pipeline's opponents. 

Yesterday, workers were out in a corn field searching for the exact location of the water main. 


Governor Tom Wolf Blues

He's our seemingly enlightened Governor, but his hideous blindspot on fossil fuels is both unsurprising and dangerous. This week, a host of issues put Governor Tom Wolf in the spotlight for his draconian and inconsistent views on his constituents' health and safety. Here's an update on what you should know about the Governor's recent doings:

 

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BBC Radio 4 Talks with Sister Janet

Last Saturday, while those of us in Lancaster attended a Mass Action Training, Sister Janet McCann of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, was talking with BBC's Martin Bashir about the chapel, their lawsuit against FERC and the larger moral issues surrounding fossil fuel consumption and infrastructure. Her piece starts around 5:00, and shares the story of our opposition to the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline with an international audience.


Philly Inquirer's Will Bunch on the Politics of Pipelines

Bunch writes, "The people who haven’t been friends to Clatterbuck in this epic battle have been the politicians from both parties who — their pockets often bulging with campaign donations from Big Oil and Gas — tout the economic benefits of projects like the Atlantic Sunrise while shielding their ears from the pleas of property owners. 'When it comes to the environment, whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, the industry has them in their back pocket,” she told me this week. “It doesn’t matter which party you belong to.'

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Sarah Lee Guthrie Supports the Sisters

Musician Sarah Lee Guthrie--daughter of Arlo, granddaughter of Woody--stopped by the chapel before a concert with her father at Long's Park last night to show her support for LAP and the Adorers.

Guthrie wrote on her FB page:

"Standing at a chapel in a corn field in Lancaster, PA. Atlantic Sunrise Project would like to put a pipeline thru these beautiful fields @lancasteragainstpipelines is going to stop them with our help... and that is why I came here. #solidarity #resist"

Lancaster Online's Jeff Hawkes also covered Guthrie's visit to the chapel:

"...during her set before an outdoor crowd of more than 10,000, Guthrie, 38, gave a shout-out to the opposition group, Lancaster Against Pipelines.

She also improvised anti-pipeline lyrics to “I’ve Got to Know,” a social-justice song written by her grandfather and Dust Bowl troubadour, Woody Guthrie."


Eminent Domain Now in Use

Here's LancasterOnline's editorial board on August 10 on the use of eminent domain in the county:

"So you can do a hundred things in your quest to contest eminent domain, but miss one thing — fail to cross one 't' or dot one 'i' — and you’re doomed.

No wonder people feel helpless and overwhelmed when they’re facing the prospect of eminent domain. The system seems stacked against them.

However legal the taking of private land for corporate benefit may be, it still strikes many of us as deeply unfair."

More on eminent domain:

"U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Jeffrey Schmehl on Tuesday issued an order giving the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. the right to condemn the property of Jeffrey and Kim Kann to obtain permanent and temporary rights of way for the pipeline."

via Ad Crable at Lancaster Online, August 5 (don't miss the comments)

The decision was made while landowner Kim Kann was out of the country.

WGAL's Mike Straub spoke with Kann after the condemnation.

Bay Journal's Donna Morelli wrote:

"While opponents have dominated public meetings in the past, supporters turned out in force for a recent DEP permit hearing on the project. Three front rows were filled with pipe layers from West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and other states. Opponents gathered in the back of the room, including farmers, doctors and teachers, unlikely activists in a conservative county."

BTW, here's the link to LancasterOnline's complete coverage of the Atlantic Sunrise.


Local News Coverage

Three pieces by Ad Crable on the Atlantic Sunrise, all worth reading: Williams bought the farm; the PA DEP is hosting a hearing on the Atlantic Sunrise's air pollution; and a "restless" Williams is aggressively advertising and pressuring legislators.

 

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Williams Bought the Farm

Here's LAP's July 28th statement regarding Williams's purchase of the farm in Conestoga where we've been camping and gathering since January:

 

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Thursday, July 27 Weekly Prayer

Last night the inaugural weekly prayer was held at the Chapel, led by Sister Leona of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. Sister Bernice is also shown, sitting among various attendees. Sister Helene tied a ribbon on the fence. (All photos by Mark Clatterbuck.)

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Media on the Sisters' Hearing and Lawsuit against FERC

Local, national and international media outlets have covered the sisters' hearing this week. We've compiled a list of articles:

LancasterOnline's Tom Knapp was in the courtroom for both days of the proceedings, Monday, July 17 and Thursday, July 20. You can read all four of his reports here:

"Nuns from West Hempfield order lead prayer vigil prior to federal hearing on Atlantic Sunrise pipeline," July 17 AM

"Hearing begins Atlantic Sunrise pipeline builder's case to seize Lancaster County property, including nuns' land," July 17 PM

"Landowners on Atlantic Sunrise route testify against project; 'Myself and my entire family are deathly afraid,'" July 20 AM

"According to testimony Monday, most of the gas is destined for foreign markets."

"Landowner accuses Atlantic Sunrise pipeline of being 'on an illogical path' as hearing testimony ends," July 20 PM

"Landowners along the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline route were denied due process to appeal the plan, an attorney argued in federal court Thursday.

An attorney representing the builder countered by saying the judge has no authority to challenge the federal order allowing seizure of the land by eminent domain.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl did not make a decision at the close of testimony Thursday, saying he will 'render a ruling at an appropriate time.'”

**

The Independent, July 20, via the AP:

"The nuns contend the pipeline violates their sincerely held belief in “the sacredness of Earth” and are suing under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act is perhaps best known for the 2014 US Supreme Court decision that enabled the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby chain to be exempt from a federal mandate to offer contraceptives as part of its employee health care plans."

James Macintyre at Christianity Today, July 20:

"The nuns' lawyers argue in court papers that a decision by the FERC to force them to accept the pipeline is 'antithetical to the deeply held religious beliefs and convictions of the Adorers'.

For the Adorers, an order of 2,000 nuns across the world which was founded in 1834, protection of the environment is central to their mission. The plan for the pipeline 'goes against everything we believe in – we believe in the sustenance of all creation', Sister Linda Fischer, 74, told the Washington Post."

WGAL's Barbara Barr, July 20:

Some great footage of singing before the start of the second day of testimony.

Anne Sensenig, a local resident, wrote an op-ed for LancasterOnline on July 20:

"Williams pipelines already carry their gas to desired destinations. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline would simply increase corporate profits by providing a short cut. Eminent domain is usually invoked for “the good of the community.” In this case, Lancaster County would not benefit. Besides violating the Adorers’ deeply held religious beliefs in the sacredness of creation and their duty to protect it, the proposed high-pressure pipeline would put many communities in harm’s way."

Harriet Sherwood at The Guardian, Wednesday, July 19:

Not a bad summary of the sisters' stand, but Sherwood believes Williams when they say the line's gas is intended for American consumers. Testimony this week showed that most if not all of the Atlantic Sunrise gas is contracted for export.

Marie Cuskick at State Impact/NPR, July 19:

FACT CHECK: Squirm every time you see this quote, because journalists use it without challenging the fallacies or facts within. The sisters no more chose to use gas than the rest of us did--and given the choice, we would rather have energy sources that didn't jeopardize our lives and futures. The Adorers do sponsor St. Anne's but they don't operate it.:

“'The suit is a clear, collateral attack on the FERC order issuing the certificate,' he writes. 'Like millions of homes and business across the U.S., the nuns’ retirement community enjoys the benefits of affordable, reliable natural gas service. Therefore, we find it ironic that the Adorers would challenge the value of natural gas infrastructure in the lawsuit, while at the same time promoting the availability and use of natural gas at their St. Anne’s Retirement Community.'”

Lauren Prince at Vice News, July 19:

"Even if Schmehl rules in favor of Williams this week, the dispute will be far from over. Clatterbuck says that more than 1,000 people have pledged to engage in nonviolent direct action should eminent domain be granted. Lancaster Against Pipelines has been hosting weekly training sessions in coordination with Greenpeace over the last few months to prepare local residents."

Indian Country Today, July 19:

"The sisters have protested other developments worldwide, including the Sao Luiz Do Tapajos mega dam in Brazil, Sojourners noted.

Such sentiments pre-date but are directly in line with those espoused by Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical on climate change and the environment, On Care for Our Common Home, in which he urged that Indigenous Peoples be consulted on major industrial projects and development."

Jack Jenkins at Think Progress, July 18:

"But the Adorers are bringing something relatively new, and potentially groundbreaking, to the environmentalist cause: a legal claim that building a pipeline on their land violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — the same law often cited by right-wing conservatives."

Dawn Araujo-Hawkins for Global Sisters Report, July 18:

"In an email to Global Sisters Report, Adorer of the Blood of Christ Sr. Sara Dwyer said, 'The complaint filed on Friday was a 'next step' in the Adorers' stand against this pipeline, and a statement meant, again, to publicly withstand the corporate takeover of land by right of eminent domain, especially when, we believe FERC had not considered all the elements for such a decision to move forward.'"

Jessica Corbett for Common Dreams, July 17:

"'We have to pay reverence to the land God has given us,' said Sister George Ann Biscan. 'We honor God by protecting and preserving His creation.'"

On July 16, the cover of the Perspective section of Lancaster Online was dedicated to a discussion of eminent domain. Three authors wrote opinion pieces, including Kim Kann ("Living the nightmare of having my property seized for pipeline"), Mitchell Sommers ("System is tough on property owners facing seizure") and a very icky industry-loving piece by PA Manufacturers Association president David Taylor ("Infrastructure projects are for greater public good") which makes misleading assertions about Atlantic Sunrise's purpose and supposed benefits.

Dennis Sadowski at Catholic News Service, July 17:

"'FERC's decision to force the Adorers to use land they own to accommodate a fossil fuel pipeline is antithetical to the deeply help religious beliefs and convictions of the Adorers. It places a substantial burden on the Adorers' exercise of religion by taking land owned by the Adorers that they seek to protect and preserve as part of their faith and, instead, using it in a manner and for a purpose that actually places the earth at serious risk,' the complaint reads in part."

 

Image: Sister Bernice offering prayer before Monday's hearing, Richard Hertzler for Lancaster Online