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

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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.

Tonight! SOC(K) Hop in Lancaster!

Money Can’t Buy Love, But it can Help the Shalefield Organizing Committee (SOC)!

Come get down for a good cause, kick off your shoes, bring your sweetie or a friend, and support organizing work against fracking in northeast PA!

SOC(K) HOP FEATURING:
Partner dance lessons from 9:00-9:30 with EmmaKate Martin and Caitlin Brady

DJ SMILES’ legendary 50s and 60’s dancepop psychedelic experience from 9:30 – 12:00

(non-alcoholic) LOVE POTION PUNCH (free til it’s gone)

KISSING BOOTHS (for when you’ve worked up a little courage.) $1-$100 per kiss.

RAFFLE of gorgeous, tasty, fancy items from local businesses.

5-$20 sliding scale
18+ (We are carding at the door)
BYOB
Safe space.

sochop

Happy Holidays from the SOC!

Dispatch #3.

As we approached the holiday season, organizers attended an eye-opening community event and conducted an interview at a gorgeous dairy farm.

Happy Birthday to SOC!

Last year at this time, organizers from Pennsylvania, DC, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and beyond gathered in Lancaster, PA for a conference to discuss working in solidarity with fracking-impacted communities. From that conference, the Shalefield Organizing Committee was born! From that weekend in late December until this July, we deliberated, met, planned, and listened. We finally decided upon our group name, mission, and our first campaign: the Sullivan County Listening Project. We’re now 3 months into the project, and so excited to continue our work!

Marcellus Matters

On December 4th, SOC organizers attended an event at the Sullivan County Courthouse called “Marcellus Matters.” Marcellus Matters was “a landscape design and planning workshop addressing the likely outcomes of gas development in Sullivan County, PA.,” hosted by a group of Penn State professors and students.

In our words, the workshop presented residents of this region the chance to help Penn State affiliates understand more about what parts of Sullivan County people value, in hopes of preserving their visual beauty as another wave of gas extraction poises itself on the county. Organizers joined residents in circling areas of maps of Sullivan County that we thought were valuable, focusing upon the beauty of local landscapes and ridge lines. We were asked to look at photos of different places around Sullivan County, and rate them in order of their importance to us. We heard presentations from students who were studying techniques such as painting compressor stations in camouflage colors to better blend into the natural landscapes around them.

Some students gave presentations on options for alternatives to gas extraction, or ways to help push Sullivan County to a more ecotourism and local agriculture-based economy. We saw presentations on ecotourist resorts that could be built on old coal strip mines, as well as plans for promoting local farming.

SOC organizers had a variety of feelings and analyses regarding this event. On one hand, Marcellus Matters was an excellent opportunity for residents to explain what parts of Sullivan County are important to them and to offer feedback about tourist and agriculture based economies. On the other hand, we exchanged conversations with many residents who were confused about why certain places were considered special and others were not.

Overall, we realized through Marcellus Matters that the gas industry and their allies are strategically invested in creating an atmosphere of community involvement in their expansion throughout Sullivan County. We were excited to witness the collective appreciation of Sullivan County’s beauty – as expressed by local residents. Whether the gas industry will actually take community concerns into account remains to be seen.

Interview Reportback

The sun sets over the beautiful Sullivan County dairy farm we enjoyed the chance to visit.
The sun sets over the beautiful Sullivan County dairy farm we enjoyed the chance to visit.

On December 10th, SOC organizers had the privilege of sitting in the living room of an older farming couple in a northern township of the county. The couple we met with have been in Sullivan County their entire lives, and so we were excited for the opportunity to hear such a rich history of life here. The couple delighted us with stories of how things used to be in Sullivan County, and we were interested in hearing their take on industry and farming, and the ebbs and flows of each over time in this region.

We heard stories of the rise and decline in industries such as lumber and dairy farming. We learned details about how the economy here has evolved – as the lumber camps and sawmills slowly declined, so did the amount of dairy farms. We learned that with the new increase in gas drilling, many land owners and farmers in the county have an intimate relationship with the economic advantages of owning land and signing a gas lease.

These farmers shared with us that while they have not had a hard time paying their bills in their long history as farmers, they do appreciate the money they received from signing their gas lease. The couple pointed out to us that the money helped them afford things they had not dreamed of before. This is an important fact to highlight as a reality in the shalefields. We also learned that landowners were not paid equally for their acreage, with some leases being hundreds of dollars different per acre from neighbor-to-neighbor. This fact was highlighted to us as an area of question for some landowners.

This interview was important to us not just in hearing about the farmers’ interactions with the gas industry and the infrastructure on their land, but in hearing such a rich and illustrated history of industry, farming and recreation in Sullivan County. We enjoyed stories of how the rural electric co-op companies brought electricity into these rural areas which border the Loyalsock State Forest, and we got to look at old farming artifacts, and hear stories of the way things used to be, and the way things still are for these friendly farmers.

End of the beginning – Looking forward to The New Year!

With the holiday season in full swing, the Shalefield Organizing Committee is transcribing interviews, organizing our finances, and planning our first organizational-wide meeting (in Lancaster, PA) in quite a few months. We’re looking forward to continued outreach & interviews in Sullivan County in the New Year. We can’t thank our supporters enough for providing us with encouragement, materials, and funding to undertake this important work!

Happy Holidays, and thanks for your support!
The Shalefield Organizing Committee

Listening for the Path to Justice

Dispatch #2 image (1)
Listening for the Path to Justice

Hello everyone! It has been a busy month and a half since our last update, and everyone at the project is excited to share with you all some updates about our progress.


Our First Interview:

On Wednesday, November thirteenth we were invited into the home of residents from outside of Dushore, PA for our first interview. Their home is surrounded with picturesque woodlands as well as gas wells. We sat around their kitchen table and talked for several hours about Sullivan County and what makes it a special place to live. For these particular residents, peace and quiet, natural beauty, and wildlife are what made them choose to make their home here.

It was clear during the interview that the family is in love with this area, despite how things have been changing.  In years past the land men came to offer bids for their mineral right.  Today the natural gas industry and its infrastructure continues to expand.  The family expressed concern about traffic, industry misinformation, crime, and community dynamics.

The family requested to remain anonymous because it would potentially “other” them within their community. One of the goals of this project is to connect residents of the county with other local folks who otherwise might not have had the chance to talk or meet because of the fear of speaking out.  As our first interviewee explained it, “Because of this particular environment, we must edit ourselves.”

It was a wonderful opportunity to speak with residents about their opinions on the past and the future of their community, and has us looking forward to the future of the project.


A New Mentor:

The next day, several members of the listening team met with a long-time community organizer working in Bradford County.  This person offered much advice to us about outreach strategy and tactics that in their experience were successful or unsuccessful.  This helped us better understand how to approach our particular situation.
Although we have worked in different parts of Pennsylvania, there are still many similarities and ways in which their information can be of great use to us here in Sullivan County.  For those of us who are rooted in this part of Pennsylvania, as we continue to make our lives here, it was encouraging to hear an explanation of the value in the meaningful connections we continue to strengthen as we embark on the listening project.

Connecting Struggles:

The following weekend, on November seventeenth, some organizers from SOC attended the Mountain Watershed Alliance’s Community Leaders Network Fall Shindig, which was held in North Park, outside of Pittsburgh. The Shindig was a second annual event which brought together community and grassroots organizers from across Pennsylvania who are working on shale gas extraction issues.

SOC organizers helped facilitate a Community Outreach discussion, which was a chance for people working in both rural and urban areas, from across a diverse spectrum of life experiences, to talk strategically about what community means to us, and ways in which we reach out to build bases of community resilience and resistance to toxic industries.
The event was an excellent opportunity for our organizers to talk to folks from around Pennsylvania about what the fracking-related situations are here, but also to hear what other folks are doing, and especially, how we are working to build a diverse and inclusive movement. We continued to build upon regional relationships that we expect to last for years to come.

Moving Forward: Listening for the Path to Justice

We are currently in the process of setting up a larger group meeting with residents of Forksville to discuss their feelings about their community. Forksville is a borough in Sullivan County near Worlds End State Park.  Forksville’s name name from the fact that Loyalsock Creek and Little Loyalsock Creek meet within the county, creating a fork.
Interviews are continuing to take place as we approach the December holidays.  Two members of SOC left a recent interview feeling encumbered by the economic complexity of rural areas such as northeast PA.  These residents of Elkland Township, who are small business owners, expressed distrust of the industry but were also forthcoming about the economic benefits upon their company.
What may seem like a moral contradiction to some is clearly an economic fact of life for residents of northeast PA.  The Shalefield Organizing Committee hopes to learn more about the way in which the environment, gas industry and residents of northeast PA are economically interconnected.  By listening, we hope we can begin learning how to create a path towards justice with affected residents.
The past few weeks have been filled with wonderful opportunities to speak with residents about their opinions on the past and the future of their communities, and to build upon our connections to others working on similar issues. We look forward to our future interviews as our calendar begins to fill up and are grateful for your continued support.

It’s Time to Listen.

After months of planning and fundraising, the Shalefield Organizing Committee is finally getting down to work.  We’ve met our fundraising goals, and our ever-expanding team of trained listeners is prepared to canvas, call, and sit-down with community members across Sullivan County.

We’re ready to listen.

Fundraising:

We’re very excited to announce that our 3 month fundraising driving has raised enough money to fund 4 full-time listeners, and to fund the costs associated with their daily work.  This money was raised through benefit concerts, chili dinners, pie auctions, art shows, crowdsourcing, private donors, and one micro-grant from the Center for Environment, Health and Justice!

Outreach:

We tabled at the Sullivan County Fall Fest on the weekend of October 12th.  It was a learning experience.

We also tabled at Powershift in Pittsburgh, and were excited to connect with people from all over the country who believe in the power of listening and relationship-building as essential to long-term movement work.

drive
SOC Drives to Powershift

Our Listening Team:

Now is made up of 4 full-time listeners, and 3 part-time listeners.  Five of us hail from NE PA.  One is from Lancaster, and one is from Philly.

Check Back Soon, and Often: We will be posting updates from the field often, and hope to share stories from some of the folks we meet along the way.