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Doing It Right: Colstrip's Bright Future With Cleanup

By staff - Northern Plains Research Council and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1638, July 2018

In 2018, Northern Plains Research Council partnered with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local union 1638 to conduct a research study into the job creation potential of coal ash pond cleanup in Colstrip, Montana.

Because coal ash pond closure and associated groundwater remediation is only now becoming a priority for power plants, there are many unanswered questions about the size and nature of the workforce needed to do it right. This study aims to shed light on some of the cleanup work being done now around the country and what that might mean for the Colstrip workforce and community.

From the executive summary: Coal ash waste is polluting the groundwater in Colstrip, but cleaning it up could provide many jobs and other economic benefits while protecting community health.

This study was conducted to analyze the job-creation potential of cleaning up the groundwater in Colstrip, Montana, that has been severely contaminated from leaking impoundments meant to store the coal ash from the power plants (Colstrip Units 1, 2, 3 and 4). Unless remediated, this contamination poses a major threat to public health, livestock operations, and the environment for decades.

Communities benefit from coal ash pond cleanup but the positive impacts of cleanup can vary widely depending on the remediation approach followed. Certain strategies like excavating coal ash ponds and actively treating wastewater lead to more jobs, stabilized property values, and effective groundwater cleanup while others accomplish only the bare minimum for legal compliance.

This study demonstrates that, with the right cleanup strategies, job creation and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand, securing the future of the community as a whole.

Read the text (PDF).

Prison Drinking Water and Wastewater Pollution Threaten Environmental Safety Nationwide

By John E. Dannenberg - Prison Legal News, November 15, 2017

Aging infrastructure concerns are not limited to America's highways, bridges and dams. Today, crumbling, overcrowded prisons and jails nationwide are bursting at the seams -- literally -- leaking environmentally dangerous effluents not just inside prisons, but also into local rivers, water tables and community water supplies. Because prisons are inherently detested and ignored institutions, the hidden menace of pollution from them has stayed below the radar. In this report, PLN exposes the magnitude and extent of the problem from data collected over the past several years from seventeen states.

Alabama

The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has been ignoring complaints of wastewater pollution from its prisons since 1991. Back then, the problem was limited to leaking sewage from the St. Clair prison. Although the Alabama Legislature promised to provide the $2.3 million needed to build a new wastewater treatment plant that would match St. Clair's vastly expanded population, no money has been appropriated.

Today, the problem has grown statewide and includes pollution from ADOC's Draper, Elmore, Fountain/Holman, Limestone prisons and the Farcquhar Cattle Ranch and Red Eagle Honor Farm. The problem has drawn the ire of the private watchdog group, Black Warrior Riverkeeper (BWR) and of the state Attorney General (AG), both of whom have filed lawsuits against ADOC. The AG's office claims ADOC is violating the Alabama Water Pollution Control Act (Act) by dumping raw sewage into Little Canoe Creek, from which it flows into the Coosa River. The AG has demanded that ADOC fix the problems and pay fines for the damage they have caused. All parties acknowledge that the problems stem from ADOC's doubling of its population to 28,000, while the wastewater treatment facilities were designed for less than half that number.

The environmental damage is huge. ADOC is pumping extremely high levels of toxic ammonia, fecal coliform, viruses, and parasites into local streams and rivers. When raw sewage hits clean water, it sucks up the available dissolved oxygen to aid decomposition. But in so doing, it asphyxiates aquatic plants and animals that depend on that oxygen.
Telltale disaster signs include rising water temperatures and the appearance of algae blooms. The pollution renders public waterways unfit for human recreation as well.

BWR notes in its suit that Donaldson State Prison has committed 1,060 violations of the Clean Water Act since 1999, dumping raw sewage into Big Branch and Valley creeks, and thence into the Black Warrior River. BWR seeks fines for the violations, which could range from $100 to $25,000 each. Peak overflows were documented at 808,000 gallons in just one day, which isn't surprising for a wastewater treatment plant designed to handle a maximum of 270,000 gallons per day. Donaldson, designed to hold only 990 prisoners, has 1,500 today.

One path to reformation was found in turning over wastewater treatment to privately-run local community water treatment districts. Donaldson came into compliance with its wastewater permit after contracting with Alabama Utility Services in 2005. Limestone and other ADOC prisons are now seeking privatization solutions.

Frackville Prison’s Systemic Water Crisis

By Bryant Arroyo - Earth First! Journal, November 5, 2017

On September 19, 21, 24 and 27, 2017, we prisoners at Pennsylvania’s SCI-Frackville facility experienced four incidences with respect to the crisis of drinking toxic water. While this was not the first indication of chronic water problems at the prison, it seemed an indication that things were going from bad to worse. This round of tainted water was coupled with bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, sore throats, and dizziness by an overwhelming majority of the prisoner population exposed to this contamination. This cannot be construed as an isolated incident.

The SCI-Frackville staff passed out bottled spring water after the inmate population had been subjected to drinking the toxic contaminated water for hours without ever being notified via intercom or by memo to refrain from consuming the tap water. This is as insidious, as it gets!

SCI-Frackville’s administration, is acutely aware of the toxic water contamination crisis and have adopted an in-house patterned practice of intentionally failing to notify the inmate population via announcements and or by posting memos to refrain from tap water, until prisoners discover it for themselves through the above-mentioned health effects.

In general, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) knows it has a water crisis on it hands. The top agencies like the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA know about this open-secret and have conspired to deliberately ignore most, if not all, of the prisoners’ official complaints. DEP has received four drinking water violations from the EPA. But the underlying problem is money, money, and more money.

Earlier this year, federal officials warned DEP that it lacked the staffing and resources to enforce safe drinking water standards. That could be grounds for taking away their role as the primary regulator of water standards, and would cost the state millions of dollars in federal funding.

In a letter dated December 30, 2016, EPA Water Protection Division Director Jon Capacasa stated, “Pennsylvania’s drinking water program failed to meet the federal requirement for onsite review of of water system operations and maintenance capability, also known as a sanitary survey.” He added, “Not completing sanitary survey inspections in a timely manner can have serious public health implications.”

One example in the City of Pittsburgh led to the closure of nearly two dozen schools and a boil-water order for 100,000 people. State environmental regulators had discovered low chlorine levels, after testing the city’s water as part of an ongoing investigation into its water treatment system. The city has also been having issues with elevated lead levels. The EPA also told DEP that the department’s lack of staff has caused the number of unaddressed Safe Drinking Water Act violations to go from 4,298 to 7,922, almost doubling in the past five years.

This leaves us with 43 inspectors employed, but, to meet the EPA mandates, we need at the least 85 full-time inspectors. That means Pennsylvania inspectors have double the workload, and this has resulted in some systems not being inspected. Logically, the larger systems get routine inspections, and systems that have chronic problems get inspected, but smaller and rural system like ours may not be because we are the minority that society doesn’t care about. Persona non grata!

To top it off, Frackville is in Schuylkill County, near a cancer cluster of the rare disease known as Polycythemia Vera (PV). While there is not definitive research on PV, it is believed to be environmental in origin and could be water borne. There’s no telling how many of us may have contracted the mysterious disease caused by drinking this toxic-contaminated water for years without being medically diagnosed and treated for this disease.

The DOC refuses to test the inmate population, in spite of the on-going water crisis. What would happen, if the inmate population would discover that they have contracted the disease PV?! Obviously, this wouldn’t be economically feasible for the DOC medical department to pay the cost to treat all inmates who have been discovered to have ill-gotten the water borne disease.

Many Pennsylvania tax-payers would be surprised to know that our infrastructure is older than Flint, Michigan’s toxic water crisis. Something is very wrong in our own backyard and the legislative body wants to keep a tight lid on it. But how long can this secret be contained before we experience an outbreak of the worst kind.

Silence, no more, it is time to speak. I could not stress the sense of urgency enough. We need to take action by notifying our Pennsylvania State Legislatures and make them accountable to the tax-paying citizens and highlight the necessary attention about Pennsylvania’s water crisis to assist those of us who are cornered and forced to drink toxic, contaminated water across the State Prisons.

If you want to obtain a goal you’ve never obtained, you have to transcend by doing something you’ve never done before. Let’s not procrastinate, unify in solidarity, take action before further contamination becomes inevitable. There’s no logic to action afterwards, if we could have avoided the unnecessary catastrophe, in the first place.

Let’s govern ourselves in the right direction by contacting and filing complaints to our legislative body, DEP, EPA, and their higher-ups, etc. In the mountains of rejection we have faced from these agencies as prisoners, your action could be our yes; our affirmation that, though we may be buried in these walls, we are still alive.

Left with no other choice, local pipeline opponents must protest

By - Lancaster Online, February 12, 2017

On Feb. 3, the dangerous marriage of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and billionaire energy companies was on full display.

For three years, residents of Lancaster County have demonstrated unprecedented opposition to the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Yet when Williams gas company sent a brief letter to FERC asking that a decision be made seven weeks early —for no other stated reason than the company’s own convenience — FERC eagerly obliged.

The decision was so premature that the commissioners themselves had to include a 100-page addendum of issues that had yet to be resolved before permission could legally be granted.

The LNP Editorial Board last week opined that “protests and arrests aren’t going to change the reality” of this situation. To the contrary, history has shown that large-scale, nonviolent civil disobedience is one of the few, and arguably most effective, ways of changing systems of exploitation when all other means have failed.

The women’s suffrage movement did not achieve success by patiently waiting for the Supreme Court to acknowledge women’s right to vote. Nor did the civil rights movement overturn segregation by making timid, well-behaved appeals to Congress. Disciplined, creative, courageous civil disobedience gave women the right to vote and broke the back of legalized segregation.

Industry billionaires — along with cowardly politicians who serve them on both sides of the aisle — are hardly motivated to abolish the system that lines their pockets. The system will not change unless we, the people, force a crisis of conscience on a scale that can’t be ignored. Every successful movement to check systemic abuse in this country has known this.

It is not easy to protest.

At Standing Rock, North Dakota, members of local tribes spent months enduring enormous sacrifices to peacefully protect their sacred land and drinking water. My daughter was among those who faced pepper spray and attack dogs by industry-hired security thugs after Native Americans held a sacred ceremony on ceremonial tribal grounds threatened by construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Originally, the Dakota Access Pipeline was going to cross the Missouri River just above the city of Bismarck. However, the plan was scratched due to complaints that the route put the capital city’s drinking water at risk. The solution? Reroute the pipeline through the reservoir that provides drinking water to the entire Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Chris Stockton, the ubiquitous spokesman for Transco/Williams, loves to talk about all the adjustments they’ve made to the Atlantic Sunrise route due to public comments. He forgets to mention that our community doesn’t want an explosive, high-pressure, fracked gas pipeline-for-export running anywhere through our county. Moving the route simply poisons different streams, violates different Amish farms, permanently fragments different forests, threatens different families.

When someone is threatening to beat you in the head because you’re standing in their way, and they ask, “Would you rather I smash your kneecaps, instead?” we hardly praise the abuser for his mercy.

Lancaster County residents are facing the very real prospect of having our water poisoned, our forests clear-cut, our preserved farms violated, our Amish neighbors shamelessly exploited, and our ancient indigenous burial grounds desecrated. Thirty landowners in Lancaster County alone are facing condemnation proceedings for refusing to allow a company halfway across the country to inflate their profits by shipping explosive gas through their property to foreign markets.

Each of these abuses represents an unacceptable harm. Taken together, they represent an assault on Lancaster values and basic American liberties than many of us refuse to tolerate.

No wonder more than 500 local residents, in the past three weeks alone, have signed a pledge vowing to participate in creative, nonviolent, civil disobedience to stop this dangerous project.

The gas industry is already attempting to paint us as “radicals” or “outside agitators.” But here in Lancaster County, we know better.

We are teachers and students, counselors and construction workers, mothers and grandfathers, Republicans and Democrats, farmers and business owners who believe this land and community are worth defending, even at risk of arrest.

This is not the time for hanging our heads and saying “what a shame.” This is the time for courageous, creative, nonviolent, massive civil disobedience.

After three years of public comment, town halls, lawsuits, fruitless meetings with elected officials, and expert testimony confirming the irreversible harms we face, FERC’s approval Feb. 3 leaves us one option. We are compelled by a moral imperative to use nonviolent civil disobedience to change this fatally broken system.

For anyone willing to join us, we welcome you to our peaceful encampment at The Lancaster Stand.

PA Public School Employees, DIVEST!

By Dianne Arnold, et. al. - Berks Gas Truth, November 11, 2016

If you are a current or retired PA public school employee, please consider signing the letter being circulated by a group of teachers who have started a divestment campaign. Below is the email they have sent to colleagues that contains the link to the sign on letter.

The letter is based on research we did that found that 49% of the PSERS holdings are in fossil fuels and that many of the drilling and pipeline companies doing  harm in Pennsylvania are on the list.

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing to you to ask you to join me in taking action today on a critical issue.  As you probably know, an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that continuing to burn fossil fuels is putting our planet’s future in peril unless we act decisively.  But, are you aware that 29 of the top 32 holdings in PSERS, our pension fund, are with fossil fuel companies? One of them, Energy Transfer Partners, has been cited for brutal treatment of Standing Rock Sioux members protecting sacred burial grounds and local water supplies from the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.  In Pennsylvania, Energy Transfer Partners and other companies are involved in massive pipeline build-outs to move gas to shipping ports.

An increasing number of retirement plans in the United States and across the world are divesting from fossil fuels and doing so profitably. In fact, a portfolio heavily reliant on fossil fuels is not financially sound.

Please join me and a number of our fellow educators and retirees in taking 3 decisive steps.

  • Sign the online petition,https://bitly.com/PSERSDIVEST, demanding that PSERS begins to divest from fossil fuels.
  • Forward this e-mail and attached petition to all educators you know who are members of PSERS.
  • Share the petition on Facebook or whatever form of social media you use.

We will deliver this letter, with the list of supportive current and retired educators, at the next PSERS board meeting on December 7.

Not only is this a financial issue, but it is a moral issue as well.   Our actions now will impact our children today and all future generations.

Thank you.

Dianne Arnold, retired educator, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Mike Kamandulis, retired instructor of Earth and Environmental Science, Penn State, DuBois

Robin Lowry, teacher, School District of Philadelphia

Anita Mentzer, retired teacher, Annville-Cleona SD

Max Rosen-Long, teacher, School District of Philadelphia

EcoDefense Radio: Alex Lotorto on Supporting Frontline Communities

By Ryan Clover - Eco Defense Radio, September 8, 2016

Audio File

Bio:

Alex has been the Shale Gas Program Coordinator for Energy Justice Network since 2011. Outside of his professional capacity, he has worked extensively as a volunteer organizer fighting for environmental justice in communities facing rural poverty.

Alex also has a labor union background and has been a union activist in both the private and public sectors, is a union delegate for the Industrial Workers of the World, and represents workers in unemployment compensation appeal hearings on a volunteer basis.

Main Message :

Foundations and major environmental groups (Big Greens) aren’t situated to help the people most in need and Organizers need to build their own support network if the most difficult and important work is going to get done.

What we talked about :

In this conversation Alex shares his experience working with his friends in Northeastern Pennsylvania. From working in rural communities, and with a history in labor organizing, Alex understands the importance of building support networks of our own – and not relying on large foundations or major environmental groups (Big Greens).

At first I was uncomfortable when Alex started sharing examples of how organizations like the Sierra Club can actually perpetuate the problems of fracking – I didn’t want this episode to come across as cynical. But Alex’s message isn’t cynical, it’s critically important – it’s empowering. He shares some concrete examples about how we can build support networks of our own, and has suggestions for how people working within large environmental organizations can help steer them toward supporting the front lines.

Links to stuff we talked about:

Did $200,000 Bail Keep Pipeline Activist Out of Sunoco’s Way?

By Anne Meador - DC Media Group, April 4, 2016

The Sheriff, District Attorney and a judge in Huntingdon County, PA may have stretched the law and infringed on individual civil rights in assisting a gas transmission company to get a wildlife sanctuary cleared for pipeline construction.

Sunoco Logistics Partners is in the midst of eminent domain proceedings in Central Pennsylvania to construct the Mariner East 2 pipeline. A court order favorable to the company, punitive bail set for activists resisting the clear-cut for the pipeline, plus allegations of endangerment and arbitrary arrests–one allegedly ordered by the District Attorney–point to local courts and law enforcement looking out for Sunoco’s interests.

A judge issued an emergency injunction on March 28 to allow Sunoco to proceed with clear-cutting three acres of the Gerhart family’s land, even though they are still pursuing litigation. Their supporters took to the trees on March 29-31 in an attempt to stop or delay the chainsaw crew. Three tree-sitters were backed up by a support team in a civil disobedience action “of last resort.”

Sheriff’s deputies arrested one of the property owners and two of the liaisons between the tree-sitters and law enforcement officers. For the activists, the judge set bail out of proportion to the misdemeanor charges. In one case, bail was set at $200,000.

The pipeline resisters say that the safety of the three tree-sitters was threatened, and law enforcement officers refused to stop crews from cutting down trees near them. With high wind speeds, there was danger of creating a wind tunnel by clearing a long path for the pipeline. “They told us the people should get down if they didn’t want to be cut down,” said Megan Holleran.

Liz Glunt was arrested when she crossed into the right-of-way to warn tree-cutters that they were getting too close. She met the $100,000 bond and was released the next day.

Property owner Ellen Gerhart says she wasn’t near the right-of-way when she was arrested, although she was alarmed that a tree had been felled so close to the one her daughter perched on that it brushed it on the way down. The deputies said she had been arrested because she was “in the danger zone.”

Alex Lotorto said he had been asked to come to the Gerharts’ and take on the role of police liaison. He assists landowners around the state who are facing pipeline easements with things such as getting attorneys to negotiate for them. He called a civil disobedience action like this one a last resort for landowners to consider only when nothing else has worked. “It’s a piece of leverage they have in these one-sided negotiations,” he said.

At the Gerharts’, he said he spent 3 1/2 hours discussing everyone’s intentions with police officers and rules and regulations pertaining to the right-of-way and wetland boundaries. His aim, he said, was to make sure that everyone remained safe. The state police, however, ran a background check on him and discovered that he had participated in protests like this one before.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested him and said they did so on the orders of the Huntingdon County District Attorney, according to Lotorto. (The District Attorney had not returned calls by press time.) Lotorto maintains that he never stood in the right-of-way, raised his voice or refused to answer a question.The official grounds for the arrest were that he was carrying a two-way radio. Lotorto says he used it only to communicate with others on the ground, and he was not involved in the tree-sit.

Protestors Takes To Trees As Pipeline’s Chainsaws Approach

By Reid Frazier - The Allegheny Front, March 30, 2016

Web Editor's Note: This campaign involves members of the IWW.

As the chain saws revved nearby, Elise Gerhart was literally up a tree Tuesday protesting a pipeline slated to course through her family’s wooded property.

Gerhart, 29, of Huntingdon, and about 20 protesters coalesced around the Gerhart property as a work crew—chaperoned by local sheriff’s officers—took down trees along the property. Two protesters were arrested as the work crews cleared land for Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will carry natural gas liquids from Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to the Philadelphia area.

The company was granted a right-of-way on the Gerhart’s land by a judge through eminent domain in January. Though they are appealing that decision, the Gerharts were ordered by Huntingdon County Common Pleas Court Judge George Zanik Monday to stay clear of the chain saw crews.

Elise Gerhart said she didn’t know what else to do, so she climbed a tree early Tuesday to keep the crews away from at least one tree. 

“We’ve been forced to do this because the government isn’t protecting us,” Gerhart said, wearing a helmet and sitting on a platform wedged between branches of the tree, 40 feet in the air. “These agencies aren’t doing their job to protect the people and the environment.”

Two protesters were arrested for violating the judge’s orders. Huntingdon County District Attorney Dave Smith says the protesters were Elizabeth Glunt of Altoona and Alexander Lotorto of Milford. Bail for each was set at $100,000.

The chainsaw crew was attempting to finish the cutting by March 31, the end of tree-clearing season established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect migratory birds and the Indiana bat.

Elise Gerhart said she would stay in the tree until the end of the week, when the tree-clearing season ends.

The Gerharts bought the property in 1982 and have participated in a state program to preserve forestland on their property.

As she watched a chainsaw crew cut down a tall tree, Ellen Gerhart, Elise’s mother, teared up.

“It’s our little part we thought we could do some good in by at least protecting three acres of Pennsylvania.” 

The Gerharts are among dozens of property owners in Pennsylvania fighting with Sunoco over Mariner East 2. The $2.5 billion pipeline travels through 2,700 properties in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Company spokesman Jeff Shields said in an e-mail that the pipeline will carry “mostly propane and butane, with some ethane.” These liquids can be used for home heating but also as the raw materials for plastics. Shields says the ethane would be exported from the Marcus Hook industrial complex in Philadelphia overseas but eventually could be “part of other petrochemical processing units” at the complex. 

“(T)oday Sunoco Pipeline proceeded under the law and continued with our tree-felling activity in Huntingdon County,” Shields said. “We will continue to work with landowners to address their individual needs and concerns, but as the court noted, protesters do not have the right to prevent Sunoco Pipeline from conducting lawful activity.”

Trees Cut as Maple Syrup Farmers Lose Eminent Domain Battle Over Constitution Pipeline

By Energy Justice Network - EcoWatch, March 3, 2016

IWW Members have been involved in this campaign:

Guarded by heavily armed U.S. marshals, a Constitution Pipeline tree crew began felling trees in the Holleran family’s maple sugaring stand Tuesday while upset landowners and protesters looked on.

The cutting began 11 days after Federal Judge Malachy Mannion dismissed charges of contempt against the landowners for allegedly asking a tree crew that had arrived on the property not to cut the trees. The charges were dismissed due to the prosecution’s inability to show enough evidence of violation of the February 2015 order that cited eminent domain in giving Constitution Pipeline Company permission to cut on the property without landowner permission. The judge expanded on the original order, adding a 150-foot “safety buffer” to be maintained around all tree-cutting activity, effectively extending the size of the Right of Way. All visitors and family members are remaining outside of the buffer while trees are being felled this week.

North Harford Maple is a family business owned by Cathy Holleran that produces maple sap and syrup utilizing their sugarbush, which includes 1,670 linear feet of the proposed 125-foot-wide right of way.

I have no words for how heartbroken I am,” Megan Holleran, a family member and field technician for North Harford Maple, said. “We’ve been preparing for this for years, but watching the trees fall was harder than I ever imagined it would be.” She admits that she expected more compassion from the company, but was wrong. This week’s cutting will destroy 90 percent of the only sugarbush that the family owns. “They refused to see us as people and brought guns to our home,” she added.

In February 2015, Judge Mannion in Scranton ordered that the Holleran property and several others in Susquehanna County be condemned using eminent domain for the private use of Constitution Pipeline Company.

A partial Notice to Proceed with non-mechanized tree cutting was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday, Jan. 29 for the Pennsylvania portion of the Constitution Pipeline. According to the deadline set by FERC, felling must be completed by March 31.

The Constitution Pipeline is a project of Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas to be used to transport shale gas obtained through the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The right of way would be at least 100 feet wide, with additional intermittent 50 foot wide workspaces and access roads.

According to Kelly Finan on her Facebook wall, “In 2015, the Constitution Pipeline company used eminent domain to seize my best friend’s family maple stand for their natural gas pipeline in New Milford, PA. The family has not been compensated for their land. In New York, the permitting for the pipeline has not been completed, so the family argued that cutting trees on their property was preemptive. When the family politely denied tree crews access to their property last month, the company took the family to federal court in an attempt to have them fined and put in federal prison for violating the eminent domain court order. Today the company arrived on the property with assault rifle-bearing federal marshals. They cut down the trees.”

“If the American flag stands for anything,” Rich Garella said on Finan’s Facebook page, “it stands for the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. These pipeline companies are misusing eminent domain and the courts are on the side of the companies. They are taking land, scarring our countryside and destroying livelihoods for the sake not of public use, but of private profit and nothing more.”

How To Fight a Pipeline

By Alex Lotorto - Energy Justice Network, February 16, 2016

Energy Justice Network is on the cutting edge of fighting fracking and related infrastructure in the northeast.

It's a special organizing challenge to fight pipelines, as we're fighting a line, not a point, on the map. Companies and agencies won't release data listing all impacted landowners. In Pennsylvania, we have enhanced our outreach by using GIS to overlay company pipeline maps with 911 emergency addresses obtained from each county, allowing us to identify impacted landowners.

Along the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in northeast Pennsylvania, we used this information to mass-mail and go door-to-door to over 200 landowners in three counties to inform them of their rights and build a landowner coalition that meets quarterly.

Our goal for landowner organizing is to have them each deny survey permission to the company (Williams Partners LLC) so that permit filing can't be completed. Then, we intend to support landowners through eminent domain proceedings by providing referrals to vetted attorneys and appraisers.

Media strategy is just as important and we have had a number of human interest stories published in local and national news about compelling cases where landowners are standing up against Williams and other companies.

In Pike and Northampton Counties, we appealed the PA Department of Environmental Protection's air permits for twin compressor stations meant to pressurize the Columbia Pipeline 1278 line that transports gas to the proposed Cove Point LNG export terminal. Both compressors emit the equivalent of a fleet of idling diesel school buses, making the local air quality especially dangerous for children's developing lungs.

During the compressor appeals, Columbia Pipeline motioned to dismiss our case and Governor Tom Wolf's attorneys agreed. However, the judge dismissed their motion and is allowing us to proceed with our arguments regarding best available control technologies, health impacts, local zoning approval, and other important considerations.

Most urgently, we're leading the cutting edge battle against the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline, a project of Williams and Cabot Oil & Gas, which is proposed to carry fracked gas from Susquehanna County, PA to Albany, NY and beyond.

On January 29, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permitted tree cutting to begin in Pennsylvania that must be finished by March 31 to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act as enforced by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

We have landowners across Susquehanna County who have given our volunteers and staff permission to monitor the pipeline clearing for violations. On one property, where a sugar maple farm is producing syrup this season, we have set up a picket line where we've turned away tree crews for 16 days straight.

The picket at North Harford Maple has drawn both the attention of national media organizations like NPR and the Associated Press and legal action in federal court by the company. We're pledging to stick to it for the long haul so stay tuned for more updates!

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