Recent changes in administration have sparked new interest in debates regarding pipelines. There are people that have been fighting this battle for years though, and some of them are right in Lancaster’s backyard.
The birth of this movement came back in April of 2014. Malinda and Mark Clatterbuck had gathered numerous folks from the community, along with their two daughters. That month, it had been announced that Williams Transco planned to build a pipeline through Lancaster County and that it was going to cut through Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve and Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve, two beloved places for locals to appreciate the outdoors.
Williams Transco, short for transcontinental, is one of the oldest pipelines in the United States, dating back to the 1950’s. It used to come up north from Louisiana, through the Appalachian Mountains, just north of Philadelphia, and then ultimately up towards New York. They are now planning a shortcut that will divert the northern Pennsylvania line south and then go through an area mostly occupied by farmland. According to Lancaster Against Pipelines, around 30 preserved farms in Lancaster County are being affected by this pipeline.
Enraged at the idea of a pipeline ruining one of his favorite hiking spots with his wife, Tim Spiese also attended the meeting. He said he was nearly brought to tears by the Clatterbuck’s daughter making a speech about pipelines ruining her beloved home and the trees and wildlife surrounding it. Little did he know, he was about to become very involved in the movement.
Lancaster Against Pipelines (LAP) was born out of this early meeting, and soon after, Spiese became the President of the organization with Malinda Clatterbuck as the Secretary.
Spiese has a property up slightly north from Lancaster County where he has a cabin. Williams Transco tried to extend an existing pipeline with a loop that would have cut directly through his property, but plans have since changed to put it on the other side of his property line.
He is still not very happy that his neighbor now has to deal with the issue. Even worse, instead of just digging up and replacing the existing pipeline on his neighbor’s property with a newer one, they want to cut down 50 mature oak trees on the property to put in a completely different line. Of course, the motivation behind this is saving money.
To Spiese and his partners at LAP, the obvious choice is that the people must stand together against corporate greed and show both the government and Williams Transco that they want control over their own property.
“They might build it,” says Spiese, “But they are not going to do it without hearing from us every step of the way.”
The FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) is going through the condemnation process for landowners in the way of the pipeline using eminent domain. This is for those that refused to sell their property to Williams Transco.
Spiese says that construction by Williams Transco is likely to start this summer, and there are several pending lawsuits that are challenging the process.
An important part of why the Lancaster movement is special, according to Spiese, is that we have a large amount of people from all over the county coming out. He uses the example of Standing Rock, which was unfortunately mostly supported just by local Native Americans at the beginning.
“Standing Rock is a very sparsely populated area, what you didn’t have there was local people coming out,” says Spiese, “This is what we have here in Lancaster.”
The locals of Lancaster claim that they have tried everything possible through the regulatory process, the policy process, and the petition process. They will continue to do this, but since all of their other efforts have failed, LAP sees their only remaining option as starting to use non-violent direct action.
Spiese defines non-violent direct action as “standing up in front of them and saying ‘no, you will not come here, we do not permit you to build here’, getting arrested, raising public awareness, and creating a huge public outcry.”
The organization believes that it doesn’t matter if this is the best way to go, it is their only option left at the current moment. Spiese has been an activist for his entire life, so he is no stranger to standing boldly in the path of wrongdoings when all else fails.
The FERC gives companies the permission to build through properties through the Natural Gas Act. The main issue that LAP faces is that the Natural Gas Act was created back in 1938. Much has changed since then, and the act is seen as outdated by many environmentalists.
The Natural Gas Act uses the grounds of eminent domain to grant permission to the pipeline companies that want to cut through properties. Without this, many pipelines would not exist on their current routes. There are some disagreements on whether or not it is proper to use eminent domain for this purpose.
“The law says the definition of eminent domain is that it must provide for the public good,” says Spiese, “That’s where the argument comes in that this gas is largely being exported overseas. If this gas is all being exported, that is completely opposite of the intent of eminent domain.”
Spiese claims that the industry will tell people that the gas is not being largely exported overseas, but they will not provide proof of it to anyone. The problem is that eminent domain is supposed to be used to help the community, and if most of the oil is going overseas, the community does not gain much.
It especially does not help contribute to United States energy independence, which has been a goal for years.
Eminent domain is how Pennsylvania Route 283 was built, a highway that many Lancaster locals use on a daily basis. This, along with projects like sewers and sidewalks are ways that eminent domain has traditionally been used.
“This pipeline is carrying gas from our Marcellus Shale to be exported overseas and the only people that profit from it are Williams and their shareholders, period,” said Spiese.
Spiese has been trying to get more involvement from younger generations, especially students. He said that he has been trying to specifically target Millersville University, without much success so far. He believes it is important for Millersville students to get involved because the issue is so local to the University.
For those interested in attending, LAP holds a variety of events that students are more than welcome to become involved in. They had a guest speaker in Lancaster earlier last week and will have more in the future. Spiese also plans to screen some environmental documentaries at a theater in Lancaster.
The main event that LAP hosts are weekend campouts at “The Stand”, which is an encampment built in Lancaster in order to literally stand in the way of pipeline progress by blocking construction.
The camp is open all day Saturday and Sunday every weekend, with camping overnight on Saturday. Weekends include various activities and trainings on legal proceedings, knowing your rights, and how to participate in non-violent direct action.
“We don’t have to go halfway across the world to fight environmental injustice, its right here in Lancaster,” says Spiese.
Spiese is very enthusiastic about giving citizens and property owners a voice to have a say in what happens on their own property. This is his main cause and the mission of LAP.