PAF Letter to Governor Tom Wolf re: Tree Cutting on Unapproved Pipelines

 

March 11, 2016

 

The Honorable Tom Wolf

Governor

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

225 Main Capitol Building

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

 

Dear Governor Wolf,

 

In light of recent tree clearing operations along unapproved pipeline routes in the Commonwealth, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking is calling on your adminstration to take aggressive steps to ensure that the best interests of your constituents are protected. The decision announced by Williams to delay its construction of the Constitution Pipeline until 2017, an announcement that comes less than a week after trees on the Pennsylvania side of the proposed route were felled, underscores the need to act and demonstrates the unnecessary harm done when you fail to do so.

 

On February 18th, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary John Quigley presented you with the final report of the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force. Within the 658-page document was a section on Good Faith Actions wherein pipeline companies were urged to “strive to understand stakeholder issues and respect differing viewpoints.”

 

The next day, a federal judge ruled in favor of Williams Partners in an eminent domain case against the Holleran-Zeffer family of Susquehanna County who operate a maple syrup business on a property that has been the family’s homestead since the 1950s. The ruling specifically gave Williams the go-ahead to cut down 200 of the trees the family relies on for its business to make way for the proposed Constitution Pipeline.

 

Last week, heavily-armed US Marshals accompanied Williams’ tree cutting crew to the property in order to intimidate the peaceful demonstrators who had been standing with the family for weeks, holding signs bearing messages like “Sap Lines, Not Pipelines” and “No Eminent Domain for Corporate Gain”. It was a grotesque and terrifying move on the company’s part, as witnessed by a bus full of schoolchildren passing within a few feet of an armed agent with his finger on the trigger of his assault rifle, and surely one that is absolutely inconsistent with the stated goals of your task force, making empty the rhetoric in the report Ivey and other industry insiders helped write.

 

The head of the task force’s Public Participation working group that authored the Good Faith Actions section of the report was Cindy Ivey, Public Outreach Manager for Williams.

 

Now, a similar situation has arisen on the proposed route of Sunoco’s Mariner East hazardous liquid gas lines. Joseph McGinn of Sunoco was also a member of your task force. Jeff Shields of Sunoco Logistics has recently made statements to the press regarding tree clearing on that unapproved line that “teams are scheduled to wrap up this week, then resume in mid-March through April 1.”

 

In fact, some of the people who stood with the Holleran family and who are fighting to protect the trees along the Mariner East line are the same people Secretary Quigley disinvited from the task force, interrupted if they testified for more than two minutes, or had physically removed from, even arrested at, task force meetings. No one from your administration advocated on behalf of the family and their small business or has yet to intercede in the Mariner East tree clearing.

 

For the Hollerans, the damage is done. The result is that a Pennsylvania family-run business has been ruined so that a private company can build an unnecessary pipeline if it ever gets final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Williams’ announcement yesterday makes clear that the family’s business could have been spared for at least another year. As someone who has given so much of yourself to your own family-run business, who even suspended your first gubernatorial campaign to save that business, you can surely appreciate how devastated the Holleran-Zeffer family is. The tree cutting that occurred last week was permitted by FERC under what it calls a notice to proceed, the bureaucratic equivalent of a winking acknowledgement that the pipeline will be approved. It’s probably a reasonable assumption, given that FERC has never said no to a natural gas transmission line.

 

However, the twist in the Williams case is a 401 water quality permit New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has yet to grant. Of course, our DEP granted the permit for the Pennsylvania side of the route without question years ago.  It is possible, given the Cuomo administration’s more measured approach to considering environmental, health, and safety impacts of fracking and its attendant infrastucture, that DEC will not approve this permit if it does not meet their regulatory requirements, stranding this pipeline without needed approvals. The Holleran’s business would have been destroyed for no purpose because Williams didn’t want to wait, FERC let them rush ahead and you did nothing to protect this Pennsylvania enterprise.

 

Secretary Quigley and others in your administration like to point blame at the Corbett administration for the disastrous way the state has handled the fracking boom. After a year in office, a year that has seen both the enabling behavior by your administration toward the industry typified by the task force and the utter disregard for constituents whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by the oil and gas industry, you can no longer point fingers to the past. You own the problems now and it is up to you to fix them.

 

 

Therefore, we call on you to do the following:

 

  1. Use your authority to rescind 401 water quality permits or issue stop work orders when our natural resources, communities, families, and businesses are threatened by work to be carried out on unapproved interstate natural gas transmission projects.
  2. Reject the 105 and 102 permits that are required for Sunoco to get approval for the Mariner East hazardous liquids gas lines.
  3. Follow the example of the Cuomo administration by withholding the issuance of any 401 permits on future pipeline projects until the necessity of the pipeline has been established and the project has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

 

Respectfully,

 

Pennsylvanians Against Fracking Steering Committee

 

Sam Bernhardt, Food & Water Watch

Tracy Carluccio, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Karen Feridun, Berks Gas Truth

Wanda Guthrie, Thomas Merton Center

Jenny Lisak, Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air

Diane Sipe, Marcellus Outreach Butler

 

 

 

 

Attachment: Photo of schoolchildren and U.S. Marshal, photo credit: Tom Jefferson

 

School Bus Hollerans

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11 Comments on "PAF Letter to Governor Tom Wolf re: Tree Cutting on Unapproved Pipelines"

  • As a 30 year owner of a residence in Paupack PA, I am in full agreement with the Pennsylvanians Against Fracking Steeering Committees contention that clearcutting trees prematurely in anticipation of an unsecured permit for pipeline activity should not be a practice approved by the Commonwealth of PA. I’VE seen this maneuver done for years to nudge an unpopular project toward permit by alleging that sincr the damage is already done, it should automatically clear an obstacle to the pipelines going forward. Please do not allow this obvious tactic to continue. Thank you

  • It is time to put the people’s health and safety before industry profit and political favors.
    Sincerely, Dana Dolney
    Director, Friends of the Harmed

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