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Some light hearted fare, to end the year.
We hope your holidays are full of good cheer.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the towns
Anti-Pipeline groups had their ups and their downs.
Their petitions were signed by residents who care,
In hopes that their supervisors were ones who would dare.
They wrote letters to papers, they hoped would be read
With ideas to fight this project they dread.
Their farms were at risk, their homes, woods and streams
The properties on which they had set their dreams.
When in townships up north, there arose a great clatter.
Ralpho Township is opposed. Their residents do matter.
Away, away we heard Lancaster City say.
The pipeline’s not here, but it’s still not ok.
Soon more folks are saying, there’s so much we don’t know.
There are safety concerns. We think Williams should go.
Then what to our wondering minds should we find,
But CELDF with methods that could ease our minds.
Communities have rights, to protect how they live.
Far more than corporations, despite what they give.
Not so rapid, but soon, more followers came.
Township by township, let’s call them by name.
On Martic, on Conewago, South Londonderry, too.
On Annville, North and South. We’re counting on you.
From Lebanon to Lancaster, in townships galore,
People working hard. Saying ‘Atlantic Sunrise no more’.
You’ll hear us exclaim, from morn, noon to night,
There’s much more to do, to fight the good fight!
Happy Holidays to all.
If you believe that you don’t need to be concerned about pipeline building in Lebanon County because it doesn’t affect your property, I urge you to think again.
Lebanon Pipeline Awareness has been holding informational meetings throughout Lebanon County over the past several months. As you can imagine, the people who are most distraught about the pipeline construction projects proposed for the county are those whose properties are directly affected. Their farms will be bisected by 42-inch Atlantic Sunrise, a Williams project. Their homes are downwind of an emissions stack from a compressor station for Mariner One, a Sunoco Logistics project. We often see people carefully studying maps, vastly relieved to see that the route depicted does NOT cross their property lines.
But, is that enough? Is the fact that a pipeline will not directly reside on your property enough to alleviate your concerns? Are you immune from its effects if it is on an adjoining property, on the opposite side of your township, or even in an adjoining township? What are some of the indirect effects from pipeline construction for those whose properties are not directly affected?
If you pay taxes, pipelines affect you. Heavy construction vehicles carrying large diameter pipes will cause further damage to our already stressed road surfaces and bridges. Once the pipeline builders finish their work, it will be up to local residents to pay for road repairs. Hopefully those repairs will hold up to the next round of pipeline construction to follow. Much of the route for the Atlantic Sunrise project is considered to be ‘greenfield’, fresh easements with the capacity to hold additional pipelines – with no additional compensation paid to landowners, or to taxpayers for even more road repairs.
Property owners affected by pipeline easements are likely to appeal for reductions in their tax assessments. Their use of their land is limited by the easement and their property value is diminished. In the recent county-wide reassessment, reductions were granted to properties with significant easements. However, the township and county budget requirements still must be met. How? By raising the taxes for other residents not affected by pipeline easements. As more and more pipeline projects are proposed for Lebanon County, this tax shift will become a significant issue.
The Air We Breathe
If you breathe the air in Lebanon County, pipelines affect you. The Mariner One and Mariner Two projects from Sunoco Logistics include a compressor station and 34 foot emissions stack in West Cornwall Township. The various pipelines included in these two projects are intended to carry ethane, a highly volatile compound used in plastics production. This ethane in these pipelines is destined for Marcus Hook for export to a European plastics manufacturer.
In order to lubricate the various seals in the compressor station, a small amount of the ethane is permitted to seep from the compressor. This product is then incinerated in the stack. This will be a 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year operation. In other words, emissions from burning ethane will be a continuous component to our air quality. Unfortunately, air pollution does not respect township boundaries. Though the compressor will be in operation in West Cornwall township, its emissions will be free to roam with the prevailing winds throughout the County.
If you fish, hike or boat in or along the various creeks in Lebanon County – pipelines affect you. The Beck, Snitz, Brandywine and Killinger creeks are a part of the more than 18 mile long Quittapahilla system. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held recently to celebrate the start of a more than $500k project to restore 1700 feet of stream bank along the creek, a significant investment in the long term health of this system. In addition, a wetlands bank has been constructed along the banks of the Snitz Creek in North Cornwall Township. This bank is intended as replacement wetlands for those lost due to transportation projects. It has already experienced a major reconstruction to add a clay liner to better hold water.
Along the Conewago Creek, a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funded stream bank fencing and planting to create a buffer zone along the creek. The project also involved the development of off stream watering sources to eliminate cattle access to the creek. This represented an important effort to improve the health of the stream itself and the Chesapeake Bay.
These two systems and the Swatara Creek will be crossed multiple times by the construction of Atlantic Sunrise risking the investments made to improve their water quality and potentially endangering their continued recreational use by county residents.
Lebanon County finds itself in the cross hairs of the oil and gas industry. We have fracking to our north, export stations to our south. There are currently 14 liquified natural gas (LNG) export stations pending approval before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The pipelines proposed to cross Lebanon County are the beginnings of the infrastructure the oil and gas industry needs to generate export profit from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale fields. These projects do not benefit our townships, our county or even our country. The only ones who benefit from this activity are the stockholders of the oil and gas industry.
What can we do? Before we are asked to surrender our easements, risk our watersheds and air quality, and underwrite the expenses of the pipeline builders through higher local taxes, we need to demand that our local officials subject these projects to all possible scrutiny currently within their power. Attend your local township meetings. Let your supervisors know your concerns about the pipelines being proposed for Lebanon County. Ask that they consider strengthening our local ordinances to provide additional protections against this industry. Ask that when they agree that these projects will have a negative impact on our communities, that they stand with us and say so. And finally, ask that they work with their constituents to devise a solution that provides their community with the right to say ‘NO’. Because, it is ALL of us.
Many environmental organizations will be asking themselves this question over the coming weeks as Williams unveils its Environmental Stewardship and Community Grant programs.
In October, Williams announced these two programs intended to ‘benefit’ communities where the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline will be operated. Lebanon Pipeline awareness has issued the following statement in regards to these programs:
We at Lebanon Pipeline Awareness are keenly aware of the funding difficulties faced by local environmental groups, but we also stand strongly opposed to the above Williams’ programs. They are blatant attempts by Williams to buy goodwill from the community and in doing so, divide it by selecting winners and losers. Community groups get the benefit and opportunity for input, while individual landowners suffer the consequences and may have no say in the matter.
We ask local environmental organizations to examine your mission statements and your own records of environmental stewardship. Consider that many who oppose this pipeline are your own members and contributors. Are you willing to risk your credibility by accepting money from a company whose projects have resulted in environmental degradation nationwide – a company that now seeks to do the same to our community? Don’t be fooled by this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Refuse to accept this tainted money.
Tainted money, it is. Williams owns interests in three major interstate pipelines, with additional pipelines in various stages of the FERC approval process, including Atlantic Sunrise. The Transco, Northwest, and Gulf Stream pipelines represent more than 14,645 miles of large scale transmission lines. The Constitution Pipeline, recently approved, represents another 121 miles of additional pipe. In addition, Williams owns another 10,000 miles of gathering lines.
Construction of these lines crossed streams and waterways, bisected farms and home properties, and caused degradation of forests and woodlands. Much of the environmental damage caused by the construction of these pipelines is to the very ecosystems many of our environmental organizations seek to protect. Atlantic Sunrise will disrupt these systems in our own communities.
Tainted money, it is. Is a one time donation from a company responsible for so much disruption worth your integrity? Atlantic Sunrise will be a permanent presence in our communities. This pipeline will be under our farms. It will slice through our woodlands. It will disrupt our streams and waterways. And, in some cases it will be directly adjacent to our homes, schools, and business. This pipeline will risk our safety – FOREVER.
How much do you value your environmental conscience?
These past few weeks have been disheartening for protecting the rights of communities and the environment from corporate greed. We have seen failures at all three levels of government to protect our health and safety. What can we do to advance community rights?
At the federal level, we’ve seen the oil and gas industry exempted from decades of environmental laws intended to protect public health and limit damage to the environment. Those communities in Pennsylvania located upstream of the Chesapeake Bay can attest to the protections put in place to safeguard this natural treasure. Last week’s approval by the FERC of liquified natural gas (LNG) processing at Cove Point, a facility located on the banks of the Chesapeake, was an absolutely dismal decision, but certainly not unexpected. FERC performed only a cursory Environmental Assessment (EA) for this project instead of the more detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is likely to be the key point raised by a variety of environmental groups expected to further challenge this decision in the courts. As we know, the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, proposed by Williams LP, is intended as a supply line to Cove Point. Until 2002, when it was sold to Dominion Energy, the Cove Point facility was actually owned by Williams.
Apparently the FERC has yet to meet an LNG facility it was not eager to approve. With more than a dozen more export facilities pending, look for an ever larger portion of Pennsylvania’s natural gas to be sent overseas, reducing domestic supply, and therefore resulting in higher gas prices for US homes and businesses – at least for those who have access to natural gas. The gas industry profits far more from investing in large transmission pipelines for export than smaller distribution lines for rural homes and businesses, leaving millions of domestic customers without access to the recent bounty of natural gas.
At the state level, this past week’s decision by the PUC to approve utility status for Sunoco Logistics simply defies logic. By granting this status to Sunoco, their Mariner East projects are exempt from local zoning regulation of the pipelines and their supporting equipment. This equipment includes multiple compressor stations, each with a 34 foot flare stack intended to be in operation 24/7. Sunoco has operated since the 1930’s as a utility, when its pipeline carried oil from the Marcus Hook refinery to points west. However, this project is intended in part to carry ethane from the Marcellus Shale eastward to Marcus Hook for export. Ethane is a raw material used in plastics production. There is nothing public or utility about it. Sunoco Logistics has multiple 10 year+ contracts to export this ethane to manufacturers in Europe.
At the local level, we see the actions of West Cornwall Township and this same Sunoco Logistics project. The township supervisors approved Sunoco’s project earlier this spring, seemingly unaware or unconcerned with awaiting the ruling from the PUC regarding the company’s status for complying with local regulation. Sunoco has a long abandoned facility along Route 322 and Butler Road in the township. Not only did the supervisors approve their plans, construction of the compressor station and flare stack are nearly complete – this in spite of potential additional litigation on the issue from other affected communities, and in spite of the project’s proximity to Philhaven, a residential mental health care facility where children are housed. West Cornwall Township has no website, supplies no agenda for its meetings nor does it post minutes for these meetings. In 2014, there is no excuse for keeping township residents so poorly informed about the activities of their supervisors and the projects pending approval before them.
Communities are people, too! They are living, breathing entities consisting of families, farms and businesses; and woodlands, streams, and the creatures who live in them. The corporation was originally intended as a legal protection against liability for business owners but has instead been used to instill corporations with rights that often trump those of actual people and the communities in which they live. It is time to take matters into our own hands. Community rights must take precedence over corporate rights. There is currently no governmental entity that is willing or perhaps able to fight this battle for us. The structure of current local ordinances could not have foreseen the impact of the Marcellus Shale boom on downstream communities like ours.
We must demand the right to say ‘NO’ to corporations that seek to damage the environment and place our own health and safety at risk for private profit. We have an obligation to protect our communities and the natural resources they contain. The past few weeks have shown us that we will have to be willing to stand up for our rights ourselves. It is time for each community affected by the oil and gas industry’s projects to strengthen their ordinances against corporate greed. It is time to work towards adopting a Community Bill of Rights.
FERC issued its approval for LNG processing at Cove Point. Is there anything to stop Alan Armstrong and Williams from building Atlantic Sunrise?
One can only imagine Oklahoma-based Williams CEO Alan Armstrong belting out these lyrics upon hearing of the latest rubber-stamp approval issued by FERC for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) processing at Cove Point, Maryland. Together with its approval of LNG processing at Sabine Pass, FERC has given Williams two prime objectives for the capacity of two of its major pipeline proposals, including Atlantic Sunrise here in Pennsylvania.
In spite of two years of numerous public protests and hundreds of comments, FERC has again demonstrated its allegiance to oil and gas interests by issuing its approval for Cove Point. This is the fourth approval FERC has issued for LNG processing and is one of fourteen such projects in the FERC approval cycle. Many of them are also expected to be approved. More LNG facility applications are expected to be filed in the near future to meet the demand for cheap US exports. These facilities will require a build-up of infrastructure to support this demand, i.e. pipelines and compressor stations. Given the expansion of fracking in Pennsylvania’s northern tier counties, we can expect these pipelines and compressor stations to be a constant presence in our communities.
Construction of this Dominion Resources facility on the banks of the environmentally significant Chesapeake Bay is expected to cost between $3.4 and $3.8 billion dollars. When completed, Cove Point will be the closest export facility to the Marcellus Shale. Initially, Cove Point has a 20-year commitment to provide their LNG to Japan and India – much of that capacity intended to be transmitted to it from Pennsylvania fracked natural gas supplied by Atlantic Sunrise. The facility is expected to begin service in July 2017. Environmental groups including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club are expected to challenge FERC’s approval.
Are we just going to sit back and wait for FERC to issue its rubber stamp approval to Atlantic Sunrise? Or are we willing to pursue a course of action that will allow us to say NO to a growing network of pipelines through our communities? Are we ready for a Community Bill of Rights?
Though Williams has yet to even make formal application to the FERC for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, though the route itself has yet to be fully defined, landowners are receiving easement offers from Williams LP. What could this mean?
Lebanon Pipeline Awareness is not qualified to offer legal advice on easements. If you have received an offer, please consult with an attorney before signing any document from Williams. Be sure that you are fully informed about your rights, and that all of your questions have been answered by Williams – in writing – before making such an important decision for your family and your community.
Important information to take into account when deciding whether or not to grant an easement:
1. An easement represents a permanent change to the deed to your property.
2. Easement payments are reportable taxable income.
3. Gas pipelines must be approved by FERC through a defined process. You have the right to:
a. Wait until FERC issues the EIS associated with this project.
b. Review and comment on the EIS.
c. Review the Conditional Approval issued by FERC that may change the pipeline’s route and therefore affect the terms of your proposed easement.
If you are reading this blog, we can assume that you may still have questions about this project, or are in fact opposed to it. We are content to leave the legal issues of easements and compensation to those more qualified to address them. But, the fight against this pipeline? It has only begun. LPA remains fully engaged in keeping our communities informed of their options in regards to this pipeline, and of the many ways you can still affect the outcome of this project. First and foremost, if you have received an offer from Williams, just say ‘NO’!
Why would Williams make easement offers so early in this process? They have yet to formally file an application with the FERC. And if any of you have requested maps of the actual pipeline route itself, you know the route is still considered by Williams to be ‘fluid’. In the Lancaster Journal article, Williams spokesperson Tom Droege mentions the “aggressive schedule for the project”. We can assume that Williams wants to build this pipeline as quickly, and perhaps as quietly as possible. Representatives from the FERC have described the local opposition to this project as being ‘unprecedented’ for this early stage of the process. Unprecedented opposition leads to bad press. Bad press makes pipeline projects very controversial. Controversial projects make stockholders very uncomfortable. Making stockholders uncomfortable is one tried and true method of stopping pipeline projects.
Perhaps these early offers are a way for Williams to determine this pipeline’s ‘path of least resistance’. Where are the most compliant landowners, those who will accept their offer, at this very early stage, with a minimum of unprecedented opposition? Any early acceptances may in fact help define the route that Williams will use in their formal application to the FERC, especially since this will allow them to demonstrate their need for only ‘limited’ use of eminent domain.
If you are opposed to this project, we urge you. Don’t make this easy for Williams. Let’s make them fight for every inch of this line in as vocal and unprecedented a way as we possibly can. There are still far too many issues to be addressed before Atlantic Sunrise should proceed. There are still far too many questions that Williams hasn’t answered.