UPDATE: Just days before the end of the month, tree-cutting crews, accompanied by the local Sheriff, moved in on the Gerhart property in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Sunoco Logistics had taken the property by eminent domain for the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will carry natural gas liquids (i.e., propane, butane, ethane) from the frack fields in Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to the Philadelphia area.
The Gerharts are stewards in a forestry program, and had committed never to develop their property, and to keep it as a forever-wild preserve. The family had not agreed to the eminent domain settlement and Sunoco proceeded with the tree clearing despite lacking necessary water-crossing and erosion permits, and while its claims to eminent domain are under challenge in Pennsylvania courts.
On March 29th, 29-year-old Elise Gerhart created a tree sit in the path of the pipeline, and vowed to stay there until the tree-cutting season ended on March 31st. While a local news crew was mid-interview with Ellen Gerhart, Elise's mother, trees were cut dangerously close to the one Elise was in, and then dropped onto supporting guy wires. Ellen ran towards crews to warn them and was removed in handcuffs (video here). Two other advocates, who did not cross into the work area, were arrested and jailed for two days, and originally burdened with $100,000 bail (later dropped).
One of the most moving parts of this story is a letter, written by Stephen Gerhart to the Pennsylvania Governor, which was posted to Facebook. Mr. Gerhart, a survivor of both the Nazi and Soviet regimes in Hungary, is no stranger to unjust systems. His letter is reprinted here.
Energy Justice Network is fiscally sponsoring a fund for supplies, legal expenses, and costs associated with challenging and monitoring Sunoco’s project.
Photo above: Reid Frazier for The Allegheny Front
Thursday, March 24th rounded out a great run of creative peaceful resistance (CPR), with simultaneous actions in Washington, DC and New Orleans, topping off a week that started with a ResistAIM visit to a FERC Commissioners meeting, continued with a blockade at a Spectra pigging station in Westchester, a rally for offshore wind on Long Island, and Bill McKibben being arrested at Seneca Lake, an event covered by the New York Times. (Click here for more on those stories.)
Pancakes not Pipelines: FERC commissioners declined a pancake breakfast (using syrup from the Holleran Farm, whose maple trees were cut for the Constitution pipeline) served up by Tim DeChristopher, working a solar-powered cooktop in front of FERC offices. The action included Megan Holleran, Josh Fox, Bethany Yarrow, Karena Gore, Gabriel Shapiro, Don Wightman, Ron Coler and Jane Kendall, arrested at the ResistAIM blockade just 2 days earlier. Photo at left by EcoWatch.
EcoWatch quoted DeChristopher as saying that FERC had “cut down life-giving maple trees to make room for a death-dealing pipeline.” The agency has been “able to get away with this shameful behavior by operating in the shadows,” he continued. “We’re here today to invite FERC employees into the open, to engage in a human way with the people whose lives are impacted by FERC’s decisions.” But commissioners turned down the yummy breakfast and chance to chat.
Beyond Extreme Energy will continue actions at FERC during the Rubber Stamp Rebellion from May 15 to May 22. The week of action will take place right after the May 4 – 16 #BreakFree days of action that 350.org is organizing.
New Orleans Superdome Lease Sale: The March 24th sale of federal offshore oil and gas leases was disrupted by hundreds of Gulf Coast residents and environmentalists. The irony of hosting the sale in the Superdome, once a notoriously inadequate shelter during Hurricane Katrina, seemed lost on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Federal reps seemed caught off guard by the action and suggested the time for the public to have commented on the sale would have been at earlier hearings. But even those who'd participated in the hearings felt the spectacle of the action was important, as were the large numbers opposing the sale. Cherri Foytlin, a Gulf Coast activist, urged BOEM reps to “go back to the President and tell him that this is just the beginning. Our numbers are swelling.” Activist Hilton Kelley, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for his work in the African-American neighborhood of Port Arthur said, “The people who live on the Gulf Coast have suffered enough because of BP.”
BOEM is also the agency that approves offshore wind farms.
Photos below by Pia Ward for FANG