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

Popular Right Now

Fast News Doesn't Mean Better News

In a progressing society, the way we digest news has gone backwards.

Bam. A shocking event, bordering on scandalous, happens. Mere minutes later, your lock screen in your smartphone starts lighting up with adrenalized headlines that pop up one after another. Or you check social media and the lines between what is real and opinion start to blur as your naïve mind tries to stitch together what happened, but nothing seems wholly truthful, but nothing seems quite like a lie.

In a world where almost all the commodities of the modern era, such as social media, online shopping, and flying, are made to fit the accelerated lifestyle of the average American, speed is always favored. This is especially true when it comes to the whirlwind that is the world of online news.

For example, moments later after the Parkland school shooting in Florida, eye-catching headlines started to appear, each one more unsound than the next. In some news outlets, the shooter was an extreme leftist. In others, he was a violent anarchist. Finally, some pinpointed him as a member of the terrorist group, ISIS. This all became visible to the public before Nikolas Cruz's name was released as the culprit.

In another occurrence, during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, social media conspiracy theories filled the landscape, many users believing that they were true. For example, in one, the Boston Globe, a newspaper based in (you guessed it) Boston, was presumed t tweet about the explosions before it happened. However, in a debunking, the tweet times always match the time zone in which the account is reading in, offering an explanation for the discrepancy. In another outlandish theory, memorial pages for the bombings were created too soon. But it just so happens that in Facebook, users can choose the date in which their page was founded

Though this is only two events, they are part of a vast collection, almost endless, as the majority of the new sources are unable to get rid of the bias that is and will probably be ever-present. Especially in the modern 21st century where the promptness is prized far more favorably than accuracy, as seen throughout various posts of miscellaneous events, so take a step back and try to analyze the whole affair with impartial eyes.

Now, I'm not asking you to go off the grid and become one with nature. Rather, I'm asking you, as a reader, to be aware of the role you play in the flawed internet-based world of news. This digitization has ruined the way the world processes news, allowing us to find ourselves trapped in a door-less chamber where the bias of the news outlets is inescapable. Or our vision is warped, much like the way a funhouse mirror does, letting us be poisoned by the point of view in each news outlet like the liberal New York Times or the conservative Fox News. Not to mention that in a social media each event comes from someone else's viewpoint, blinding you from your own.

Though this is scary, there are ways to avoid artifice of the online news outlets, like making sure you don't read incidents the moment they happen. This will make life easier for you in the long-run, allowing the detection of the bias and actual fake news easier than it would have been if you had read it right away as many news sources would have corrected mistakes that might have gotten published. Despite the fact that you might see news a day old, you will be better informed as the amount of misinformation you receive will be minimalized.

So, please stop checking news the moment they come out, that way diminishing false information that is seen and read. Aside from that, another way would be to stop believing everything read on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as this will lower your stress levels by making the world more manageable by lowerung the amount of information you're getting and will make you better informed, permitting you to form your own opinions, free of the bias found in news.

Cover Image Credit: Max Pixel

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The Public Opinion Isn't Always The Informed One

Political affiliation: popular opinion

If you have a political opinion, have an informed one.

Political affiliation: popular opinion.

You know those people that base their beliefs on whatever is ~trending~ in the political sphere instead of actually researching their information and arguing fully informed points?



OK. Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about that for a minute. Let’s talk about how some millennials climb ranks among social media armies that push an agenda based upon assumptions rather than facts. With that bandwagon game, comes a bunch of ill-advised keyboard warriors fighting for causes they know nothing about.

People see a tweet that is trending or a movement that they think should be supported when, in reality, it is watered down and based on lies. How can you build an argument with “facts” when you are never given the full story and are constantly tossed “fake news” in the first place?

This applies to Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and the like. A single side can't assume the blame when it falls on everyone involved in the political circle and those who refrain... but that’s another story for another day.

Those people who only share, like, and send messages they think will boost their followers or their likability are like the cockroaches compared to those who actually do their research and make informed decisions.

Now, I keep saying that a lot -- "informed." But how, exactly, do you weed the right information from the wrong?

Simple, usually you have to do some deeper digging. Listen to podcasts, search the internet outside of social media, and find people and sites that contain verifiable, reliable information. Follow your heart...or in this case, follow the truth.

Get familiar, and get involved. Change starts with informed voters.

Cover Image Credit: Nick Guyon

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