Braving the rain, pipeline protesters want leaders to listen

April 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

The more than 100 people who stood  in the rain were a mix of  folks who had planned to stay outside and protest and others who had simply arrived too late to get a seat at Tuesday’s meeting hosted by Lancaster County commissioners about a proposed natural gas pipeline.

“I was four away” from getting  a seat, said Luke Bunting of Conestoga Township. The room where the meeting was held could handle about 140 people.

“I never thought I’d be a protester,” he said.

Bunting is one now.

He’s among the organizers of, an online group that opposes the 193-mile interstate pipeline, including 35 miles through seven county municipalities, that Oklahoma-based Williams Partners wants to build.

“You realize it’s your family’s health. It makes you do crazy things,” he said as he stood in the rain along North Queen Street, near the building where the meeting was held. Passing motorists honked their horns, expressing support for the protesters.

The protesters came from Lancaster city, Millersville, Manor, Manheim, Conestoga and Martic townships.

Their concerns, in general, touched on protecting waterways and forested lands to particular favorite area they fear might be affected, including the wildflowers of the Shenks Ferry preserve, the hiking trails of Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve and forestland in the River Hills.

Sibbie Zegley of Martic Township was hard to miss among the 50 or more protesters still standing in the rain a good half-hour after the meeting started.

She was dressed in a dark green coat adorned with leaves, twigs and flowers, holding a sign that read: “Willams: Don’t mess with Mother Nature!”

Zegley said she was outside to rally opposition to the pipeline and her husband, Paul, was inside gathering facts.

Her message was for all officials — local, state and federal — who represent Lancaster County, she said.

“I don’t think it’s asking too much to ask them to take a stand,” she said.

As far as whether the protest was aimed at the proper officials, Bunting wasn’t sure.

“Do we have a political system anymore?” he asked, after noting that he’d been told the decision rests with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Is it just FERC says yes and everybody else falls in line?”

Tom Houghton, the Lancaster County Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts in the fall election, was there, too, and he was ready to take a stand.

Houghton, an attorney from Chester County who is a former state representative, spent some time talking with protesters.

He said that if he represented the 16th Congressional District, he would likely oppose the proposed pipeline.

Such proposals are “always a balancing test,” he said, and he has seen nothing to persuade him that the balance favors the company’s position, which seems to be one more of convenience than necessity.

“I don’t see anything that tips the scales in the company’s direction,” he said.

Ben Miller, 36, and his wife live in Martic Township, and like the woodlands in the southern end.

“It’s where I live and where I walk,” he said.

And he and his wife plan to have children.

“I like it the way it is,” he said, “and I want it that way for my kids and my kids’ kids.”

Pat Lemay, of Manor Township, said she opposes fracking and pipelines.

“I think wherever they put them is a problem,” she said.

Rather than expanding our natural gas resources, she asked, why not provide incentives for more environmentally friendly energy sources, such as solar power?

“There are so many things that can be done to diminish our dependence on fossil fuels,” she said.

Laura Newcomer, 26, of Lancaster city, was there with her boyfriend, Matt Thomas.

The pipeline, she said, won’t help the people of Lancaster County.

“We’re getting all the risks for no gain whatsover,” she said.

Tiena Mann, of Conestoga Township, said she opposes the pipeline because “it’s not environmentally friendly.”

She worries about 100-year-old trees that can’t be replaced, the pipeline’s effect on waterways and diminishing the 15 percent of Lancaster County that is still woodlands.

Diana DeLucca of Millersville said she believes that if Lancaster County bands together against the pipeline, there is hope for the protesters’ position.

“A pipeline has never been stopped in Pennsylvania,” she said, “but there is so much support in Lancaster County, maybe we can be the first to stop a pipeline.”

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