More Eminent Domain for Corporate Gain

More Eminent Domain for Corporate Gain

One family's struggle to save their property from exploitation.

Once again, a family in Pennsylvania is facing a wealthy corporation's plans to clear trees for a pipeline route on their homestead without permits or permission from the landowners. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's happening all over Pennsylvania right now. In this case, however, the pipeline in question is the Mariner East 2, the second Mariner East pipeline to carry natural gas liquids (NGL) across Pennsylvania to supply an export terminal in the eastern part of the state where ethane (a liquid used in plastics manufacturing derived from fracked shale gas) is shipped overseas. The company behind this development, Sunoco Logistics Partners, is a for-profit company owned by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas. For local residents, this all means that a non-local company is profiting from dangerous uses of local land for a product that will be exported and not benefit the people whose land it came from. But one family in particular is leading the front lines against the Mariner East 2.

Map of proposed Mariner East 2 pipeline route

The Gerhart family property was condemned via eminent domain to the clearing of three acres of their trees along the Mariner East 2 route. The Gerharts have stewarded their forests since 1982 and placed it under the Forest Stewardship program more than 20 years ago, intending to protect it from development. The family refuses to accept any easement or settlement offers from the company due to their concerns that the pipeline will harm their community's health, well-being, property values, potentially endanger families, and pollute the local environment.

L-R: Elise and Ellen Gerhart

Sunoco plans to cut the trees on the family’s Huntingdon County property to make way for its project by April 1st. However, Sunoco lacks necessary water-crossing and erosion permits and its claims to eminent domain are being challenged in Pennsylvania state courts.

Pine tree in pipeline's right-of-way path on Gerhart property

"They shouldn’t be allowed to do work on our property while we're appealing the eminent domain case," said retired teacher and landowner Ellen Gerhart, in a recent press release. "We haven’t been compensated and they're trying to come in without wetland and stream crossing permits. They don't have a good mitigation plan for the inevitable damage they would do. Our opposition to the project doesn't have to do with compensation, it has to do with our rights as property owners and stewards of the environment. You would think that government officials who have sworn to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution would do so, but they're ignoring their responsibility and allowing out-of-state companies to run over the rights of Pennsylvania citizens.”

The Gerharts also ask the PA DEP to halt the tree clearing until Sunoco secures the proper erosion and water encroachment permits (according to chapters 102 and 105 of Pennsylvania's Clean Streams Law) necessary for the development, such as a temporary refueling space, on the wetlands and streams included in Sunoco's mapping for the planned project. A group supporting this family also urges others to take the time to contact the PA Governor Tom Wolf, Secretary John Quigley, and the PA DEP, with instructions and talking points available.

Map of proposed right-of-way within Gerhart property (magenta line)

Sunoco's Marcus Hook terminal has already sent Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale ethane to a petrochemical plant in Norway as of March 11. The Intrepid, a 575-foot tanker commissioned by chemical manufacturer INEOS Europe, was loaded with 173,000 barrels of ethane transported to Marcus Hook from western Pennsylvania through the Mariner East 1 pipeline, according to Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields.

Many local residents openly oppose this project, claiming it does not provide domestic benefits but unnecessarily disrupts and damages local property. Indeed, pipelines are not yet found to be safe in use, despite many years of explosions in the past.

As these stories tend to go, it is an expensive uphill battle for one family to go up against the Goliath that is the oil and gas industry. The Energy Justice Shale Initiative (known for their successful effort to fund and carry out a federal jury trial for two families in Dimock, PA with contaminated water), through 501(c)(3) Action Center, Inc., has set up a donations page for anyone concerned to donate to support the Gerhart family and their community in this fight to protect their land and safety.

Additionally, a Facebook page is open for anyone interested in more information.

Cover Image Credit: Elise Gerhart

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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'Welcome To Class! In Case Of A School Shooting...'

School shootings seem to be the new norm, my professors are supposed to tell us what to do in case it becomes our norm.

The first day of Spring quarter, I was given the usual rundown of the syllabus, we went over all of the normal things professors talk about on the first day, grading policies, attendance, etc. But I was shocked when my instructor explained the protocol for an active shooter situation should one take place on campus. My initial reaction was shocking, the only things running through my head is, that could never happen here, this is a waste of time. But as he continued to speak about it, I realized, that's probably what other students have thought too.

We are now five months into the year, and as of May 18th, there have been 22 school shootings in the United States alone. Some schools are preparing for these situations by updating their school security, making students have clear backpacks, and in our case, having a protocol ready if this occurred on our own campus.

So why aren't all schools doing these things? It does cost money, however, room needs to be made for these extra costs.

School is supposed to be a safe place, not a war-zone.

Clear backpacks may be a little drastic, however, more cameras, intercom systems at main entrances to allow access, and, of course, some type of protocol. Our teachers face enough stress in their day-to-day lives. By not funding these resources, we are saying we don't care about their safety. Dedicated teachers are ready to lose their life if it means they can protect their students.

They shouldn't have to.

Anya Kamenetz with NPR explains a good way to prevent school shootings would be to have more mental health professionals available in the schools themselves, while even creating a social-emotional curriculum. It is not, however, a good idea to target students because they may be introverted or uninterested in everyday activities. Would you enjoy someone being your friend specifically because they were scared you might shoot up a school? I didn't think so. Sadly, it always gets worse, before it gets better.

But the problem has become so widespread it's harder to stop and harder to pinpoint the issue. Stop focusing on politics, this isn't about one side or the other, it's about the loss of lives. Students not wanting to go to school because they fear for their lives, and even about having to worry if you'll make it through the school day.

If both sides of the political agenda could just genuinely focus on how to fix this problem and stop telling each other they're wrong, we may be able to stop this thing.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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