Columbia County Residents Voice Concerns at Town Hall Meeting

Last Friday night, August 15th, over 75 Columbia County residents came together for a town hall meeting at the Bloomsburg Fire Hall. Together we discussed the proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project, which would bisect the western side of Columbia County and affect over 300 landowners along the Right-of-Way. The night started out with a slideshow showing the stark landscape that comes with installing a 42” pipeline. Lynda Farrell from the Pipeline Safety Coalition shared both her personal and organizational experience with the crowd. She discussed the 42” pipeline which Williams Partners is currently installing on her property in Chester County, and the work that she has done supporting other landowners facing similar situations. Lynda also offered advice to landowners on the question of eminent domain. The pipeline on her land was forced through via eminent domain. She also works very closely with Carolyn Elefant, who has authored a guide for landowners on the subject of pipelines and eminent domain.

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Tim Speise then shared some similar experiences. He is affected by the Atlantic Sunrise project on both ends of the line, residing in Lancaster, but also owning a home in Clinton County, where the proposed Grugan Loop would expand capacity for the Transco Pipeline, which would be the second pipeline going through his property. He gave a rousing report of the community organizing that has been happening all over Lancaster County in opposition to the pipeline. Lancaster residents have already forced Williams to alter the pipeline route to avoid valued forest and farm preserves. Unfortunately, Tim reported, the new route crosses a number of family farms and orchards. He underscored the point that simply moving the pipeline puts the burden on others, whereas stopping the pipeline as a whole would prevent burden from falling on anyone.  Tim’s speech did a lot to agitate attendees against the pipeline and to inform them of the need to work together as a community.

Sam Koplinka-Loehr of the Clean Air Council ended the first section of our town hall meeting with a report of community education and resistance along the entire route of the pipeline. From Susquehanna County all the way down to Lancaster we heard stories of communities coming together to make decisions about how to address this major proposal from Williams Partners.  Sam hoped that giving Columbia County residents some perspective of the bigger picture and sharing the stories of struggle would act as a sparkplug for developing stronger community relationships. Building a network of people working together to address environmental and public health risks such as those presented by Williams could be an important step forward in protecting the interests of Columbia County residents as a whole.

The second half of the evening was devoted to hearing the voices of local residents. After the Williams Partners open house meeting and the FERC Environmental Impact Statement scoping hearing, many residents expressed frustration at the way those meetings were conducted. Many felt that both events lacked ways for residents to get their questions thoroughly answered or their concerns heard. With that in mind, the SOC Central/NE PA Committee organized this town hall meeting to allow as much time as necessary for residents to ask questions and share concerns with our panelists. The Bloomsburg Fire Hall was busy with discussion until almost 10:00 PM! We heard questions about insurance rates, property values, environmental concerns, nearby coal mine fires, eminent domain, compensation and more. We hope that everyone left feeling better informed than when they arrived.

For those of you that were not able to make it out: all the written information we provided is available on the “Atlantic Sunrise” tab on our website. If you have specific questions for SOC or any of the speakers we brought to the town hall meeting please contact us at and we will do our best to get you an answer. Please also contact us with ideas for future events. We would love to have your input as we plan for more community gatherings. Stay tuned for more information!

Hundreds of Lancaster Citizens Oppose Pipeline at FERC Meeting

Nancy Jeffries of Conestoga speaks out against the pipeline.
Nancy Jeffries of Conestoga speaks out against the pipeline.

Over 450 Lancaster County residents attended the FERC Environmental Impact Public Scoping Meeting about the Atlantic Sunrise, Monday night in Millersville.  40 residents were given 3 minute intervals to present their case for or against the pipeline.  All 40 comments were against the pipeline, including ones by a county commissioner, archaeologist, geologist, and leaders of various local preservation and conservation groups.

Continue reading Hundreds of Lancaster Citizens Oppose Pipeline at FERC Meeting

Building Community-Based Resistance to Natural Gas Infrastructure

As the summer progresses, Williams (the parent company for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline expansion) has moved ahead with planning and preparations for their new project.  Not ones to miss a beat, the Northeast-Central Working Group is keeping pace with our work to educate and support local landowners in developing a plan for resisting the pipeline.   Continue reading Building Community-Based Resistance to Natural Gas Infrastructure

Petition to STOP the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

STOP the Natural Gas Pipeline near Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania

This petition was organized by a fan of Knoebles Amusement Park, Leighton Brown.  Brown writes:

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline effects thousands of jobs, a local community, and a family amusement park that has been in business for more than 88 years. It effects the local enviroment, the food and water used by local businesses and communities. The soul of this petition is to save a near century old amusement park known as Knoebels Amusement Resort from being affected by the greed of a Natural Gas company. If this Gas Pipeline leaks it could shut down this local family favorite amusement park that has thrilled generations of families. It will also affect a strong knitted community that has been around for more than a century. This is not about money or business this is about preservation of a community and a community amusement park that has supported this local area since the early begininings of this very community. I think its time we STOP this Pipeline before it could hurt a local community in the state of Pennsylvania.

Sign the Petition

Expanding to Fight Pipeline Expansion

With the start of spring in Central Pennsylvania, new projects and relationships are blooming for the North-East Central PA Working Group! We recently welcomed three summer interns to our campaign. With extra boots on the ground, we hope to expand the reach of our Sullivan County Listening Project. This will include mass fliering, cold-calls, and door-to-door canvassing.

Our most recent interview was with a retired science teacher who now spends as much time as he can fishing on the Loyalsock Creek. “I know the creek” he said, when asked about his favorite part of living near the Loyalsock State Forest. His ideal 10 year vision involves a greener and more sustainable economy for Sullivan County. “This county could be developed as an eco-tourist site: skiing, biking, snow mobiles, hiking…it’s an untapped resource. You don’t have to depend on a gas well (for income) if you have tourists year round.” He echoed the concerns of many other retired people we’ve talked to about planning for old age in an area which has for a long time, depended on extractive industries and has seen multiple boom and bust periods. As a long-time resident of the Loyalsock he referenced the regrowth that has occurred since the major clear-cutting done by the logging industry in the early 1900’s. “Where I grew up in Schuylkill County I would always fantasize about what it looked like before the coal mines polluted the creeks.”

A picture from a previous pipeline expansion project in the area.

SOC’s new interns will also be key in getting our newest project off the ground. A pipeline project called the “Atlantic Sunrise Expansion” was recently proposed to be built from northern Columbia County through southern Lancaster County, where many SOC organizers and allies live, work, and play. The section nearest to us in Columbia, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Lebanon and Lancaster Counties is called the Central Penn Line South.” The Central Penn Line South would be a 178 mile, 42 inch high pressure pipe used to move natural gas more quickly from the extraction zones to market sources. It would begin at the northern end of Columbia County and travel South through Northumberland, Schuylkill, and Lebanon Counties and conclude in Lancaster County, heading towards numerous proposed natural gas export facilities. This would be a greenfield pipeline, meaning that rather than use existing right-of-ways, it would cross land previously untouched by natural gas infrastructure. This includes extensive farmland, forests and nature preserves, and it would hug the Susquehanna River for approximately 20 miles.

There have already been community meetings in Lancaster, Lebanon, and Columbia Counties. In Columbia County we will be focusing our efforts on informing and supporting landowners who may be on the proposed pipeline route. Our interns will be doing research on the pipeline, and we hope to contact every affected landowner in Columbia County (over 300!). This will be a big focus of the North-East Central PA Working Group for the foreseeable future.

With all this work on our plate, this could easily be a full-time job for the entire North-East Central Working Group. To ease the burden, we will be applying for larger grants in the next few weeks. We hope that more resources will aid in expanding our reach and growing the community around SOC. We also want to thank everyone who donated towards helping to fund the startup of our Sullivan County Listening Project.  Your donations have helped five different organizers cover their living expenses for a short period of time, which allowed us to focus full-time on building organizing and outreach in the Marcellus region of Northeastern-Central Pennsylvania.

Listening Through a Long Winter


Dispatch #4:

Listening through a long winter

The Shalefield Organizing Committee has been hard at work in the New Year!

Lancaster Retreat:

Organizers from the NE/Central PA Working Group, along with organizers from Lancaster and Philadelphia SOC, converged in Lancaster for a strategy retreat at the end of January.

The Listening Project group did a report back about the listening project: about what was learned through their interviews, how listening project goals have changed and what future plans project plans are.

One notable change that came out of the retreat, and discussions after the retreat, was that the Frontlines Working Group was renamed the NE/Central PA Working Group. This was in light of a discussion about what it means to be someone directly affected by fracking, as the industry works to expand it’s reach in PA, including a possible export terminal in Philadelphia.

FANG – Fighting Against Natural Gas:

Deirdre, an organizer with the SOC, met Nick of Fossil Free Rhode Island at the second Extreme Energy Summit in Minnesota. Their vision was to bring a group of organizers from throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to Pennsylvania to see the effects of widespread fracking first hand. Retreat dates were set, planning calls were scheduled and FANG, the Fight Against Natural Gas network became a reality.

Organizers from Rhode Island, New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland and DC came Columbia County for three days of learning, listening,strategizing and action planning. We started the week with a fracking infrastructure tour in Sullivan County led by a local resident. Our caravan drove past waste impoundment pits, pipeline right of ways, a holding tank, well pads and a compressor station.

After decompressing at our tour guide’s home, we ate at the Sonestown Inn and headed to Tunkhannock for the Environmental Quality Board oil and gas regulations hearing. During the 3 ½ hour hearing, we heard from industry representatives, concerned residents of Pennsylvania and New York, conventional well drillers, and five members our groupabout their thoughts on the Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed new oil and gas regulation and about the shale gas industry in general.

For the next two days we were in the McBride Library in Berwick, opening up to each other about our projects and campaigns; our hopes and our challenges. We heard about the Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas facility in Maryland which is slated to be converted from an import facility to an export facility.

The stories from West Virginia of a state being hit hard over and over again by the coal industry were hard to hear, especially the latest news of the Elk River toxic spill that continues to pollute residents drinking water. In Buffalo, NY, the air quality is one of the worst in the country because of refineries and factories that spew toxic chemicals into the air and water. Nick and others working with Fossil Free Rhode Island are helping residents get their municipalities to divest from fossil fuels and withdraw the financial support of destructive, polluting industries. We listened to each other and built relationships over these three days that we hope will grow even stronger as we continue to collaborate with each other.

Powerful Interviews from Powerful People – Interview Summaries from SOC’s Latest Interviews:

Michelle, originally from Massachusetts, is in her late 50s and lives in Sullivan County.

While she shares many beliefs with her more outspoken husband, Michelle’s approach is much different in discussing how natural gas extraction has affected her and her community. She works at a small, local business, and referenced her experiences there frequently to provide examples of impacts and trends resulting from gas drilling near by. Right off the bat she referenced traffic and noise: the basic unpleasantness of having large groups of transient people coming into your spaces. “My co-workers can’t believe I hold my tongue so well.”

She reported a number of changes since the gas industry came, and then left. “We are now in the bust,” she said, citing having her hours cut at work and needing to find a second job. More than anything else, when asked questions about the general outlook for the area, she said that herself and many of her neighbors often feel unrepresented, and almost hopeless. “I don’t see it coming back,” she said, offering the descriptor of a ghost town for the future of her area. Michelle and her husband moved to Sullivan County only 11 years ago, hoping to have a place to gather family, pass down, and enjoy the natural beauty surrounding them. “That’s gone now,” she said, reluctantly admitting that she and her husband had already started putting thought into moving somewhere. Where? “Anywhere without gas.”

E and B are a couple in their 70’s.  They live on a secluded mountain in northern Sullivan County:

E and B are also transplants to PA. They left their previous home looking for somewhere more quiet and less trafficked after living on a major interstate. They were the only people in their area to refuse to sign a gas lease. This has caused a strain on their relationships with neighbors.

The subject of gas leases has caused direct conflict with neighbors, as well as with gas men, who E and B at various times had to force off their property using threats, including guns.

Throughout the interview E made frequent reference to his long-time industrial manufacturing job, citing exposure to hazardous materials, mistreatment of workers, and the failure of the government to regulate big business.  He felt this as a worker, and then saw similarities from a different perspective: when witnessing and interacting with the gas industry.

B and E both expressed a lack of hope for a better future with gas drilling in their area, and felt stuck. As retired people living on a fixed income, they would not have enough money to move to a new place if they wanted to. This added to a sense of isolation and a lack of control, which they expressed with anger and frustration. On the positive side, B cited a few empowering experiences of forcing gas workers off her land, and confronting politicians at local hearings related to drilling and infrastructure. Regarding a potential water withdrawal site, she said “I will stand in the creek with everyone I know and stop you from taking this water.”

We have a new member of the NE/Central PA Working Group! Here is what Zora had to say about her first week working on the Listening Project:

This is my first week as a part of the Shalefield Organizing Committee and I helped conduct two separate interviews this week. Both interviews were with people much older than myself (I’m 23), but we all had something in common: we were originally from out of state.

In both interviews, we asked what had brought these people to Sullivan County, and the answer was the same: the calm, natural beauty and a slower lifestyle. This is something I can identify with. Coming from a big, loud city, I came to PA looking to spend some time being calm and focused, while still being involved in work that had purpose and passion behind it. The SOC listening project is just that kind of work. Helping to collect personal stories and identify needs and trends in a geographical area is something that takes time and care.  Each individual matters. It is a great privilege to be able to sit and talk with people about their lives, and to hopefully take all of these interviews and turn them into something bigger is a challenge that I’m excited to be a part of.