In October, the group Lancaster Against Pipelines held an opening dedication for a structure called the Stand, that sits on the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline’s right-of-way, across the road from an encampment that will serve as a base for nonviolent direct actions. Photo: David Jones
Less than a week before the Army Corps announced it would approve an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which permits interstate natural gas pipelines, gave the okay for the pipeline operator Williams to begin constructing the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania. It awaits an Army Corps permit. The 42-inch pipeline is an extension of largest volume natural gas pipeline in the U.S., the Transco line. Part of the point of the Atlantic Sunrise project is to allow the Transco to switch directions, carrying gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region, a center of the U.S. fracking boom, to markets in the south, rather than from south to north as it has run historically. The 183 miles of new Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will increase the system’s capacity by 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, some of it destined for export.
Landowners have argued that the extension is being constructed for the benefit of a private corporation and is not a public good that merits the taking of private property via eminent domain. The Clean Air Council has pointed to energy analyst predictions that say the area is being overbuilt with pipelines and that markets ultimately will not support the extraction of enough gas to fill the expanding network that includes the Atlantic Sunrise.
With FERC’s announcement, the fight for communities opposed to the project enters a new phase. Lancaster Against Pipelines announced the opening of an encampment that will serve as a base for nonviolent direct actions. Until the final permits are decided, the camp organizers are focused on preparing the site for campers, and are active mostly on weekends.
Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will carry 1.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas 199 miles from the Marcellus shale region, where gas is extracted using hydraulic fracturing, south to connect with the massive Transco pipeline, which carries gas to southern states. Graphic: The Intercept. Source: Atlantic Sunrise web site, February 17, 2017
Mark Clatterbuck, one of the camp’s organizers, and his daughter Alena traveled from Pennsylvania to visit Standing Rock over Labor Day weekend. Alena joined the prayer group that, in an incident now infamous, unexpectedly encountered construction at a site that had, only one day before, been identified by the tribe as burial grounds. Video footage of security guards using biting German shepherds to fend off the nonviolent group galvanized people across the U.S. to go to Standing Rock.
The Clatterbuck family and some of their neighbors had been fighting the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline since 2014. Standing Rock provided a jolt for the group. They had been considering building tree stands along the planned route, “Then North Dakota happened,” Mark’s wife Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck said, and the group began drawing up plans to camp.
Community activists hold signs as they protest the Sabal Trail pipeline, in front of the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, in Coral Gables, Fla. The Sabal Trail is an underground natural gas pipeline project that originates in Alabama, stretches through Georgia, and terminates in Florida. Photo: Alan Diaz/AP
Sabal Trail Pipeline
Last August, on the same day that Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault was arrested in one of the first direct actions to block construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers granted the final federal permits needed to construct another pipeline, the Sabal Trail. The 36-inch pipeline, owned by Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy, and Duke Energy, would carry more than a billion cubic feet per day of natural gas along 515 miles from Alabama, through Georgia, to Central Florida. It’s set to begin operating at the end of June, and according to the company would fuel natural gas plants. Export terminals have been proposed near the pipeline’s endpoint.
Back in 2014 Ted Turner was already petitioning for an alternative route, worried that his Georgia plantation, where he hunts quail, sat too close to a compressor station that would worsen air quality. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the economic spectrum, most of the project passes through places whose low income and racial or ethnic composition qualify them as environmental justice communities.
The Environmental Protection Agency has raised issues as well, sending a letter to the permitting agency FERC in 2015, noting, “The EPA has consistently expressed concerns over the preferred route.” It added, “The EPA is requesting that the FERC develop an alternative route to avoid impacts to the Floridan Aquifer and its sensitive and vulnerable karst terrain.” Karst is a geological formation made up of limestone or other soluble materials, marked by sinkholes and caverns.
A month later, the EPA abruptly changed its position, filing another letter stating that the agency had received new information and now believed that “the Applicants fully considered avoidance and minimization of impacts during the development of the preferred route.”
Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy, and Duke Energy are in the midst of building the 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline, which will carry more than a billion cubic feet per day of natural gas south from a connection to the massive Transco pipeline in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, through Georgia, to a pipeline hub in Florida’s Osceola County. Graphic: The Intercept. Source: Sabal Trail web site, February 17, 201
The Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper are in the midst of a lawsuit over the construction, arguing in part that FERC did not consider the climate impacts of the pipeline. Meanwhile, construction is underway, and many have turned to direct action.
A network of encampments and planning hubs have sprung up since last fall, run by a range of organizers with various missions. The two biggest camps held 40 to 50 people total the week prior to Trump’s inauguration, but since then they’ve both stopped inviting overnight campers and transformed into an educational center and a meeting house for planning actions. Visitors to the Crystal Water camp are trained to recognize construction violations.
Four small camps in the Goethe State Forest, called the Heartland camps, are jumping off points for direct action. Visitors are advised to reach out to organizers before coming. “This is not the Standing Rock experience most think they are coming to see. Many people have come and not been prepared for the realities of primitive camping.” said Christine DeVore Santilo, adding that a few days is the most anyone has stayed.
According to Panagioti Tsolkas, who’s been involved in fighting the project for years, Standing Rock shaped the last six months. “It’s a different context in many ways, but the inspiration that’s come from organizing in indigenous communities is a lot of what’s sparked what’s happening now.”
The Split Rock Sweetwater camp was opened by the Ramapough Lunaape tribe in New Jersey in opposition to the Pilgrim pipeline. Photo: Split Rock Sweetwater Camp
Along one of the busiest traffic corridors in the northeast, New York’s thruway, the Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings is considering building a parallel duo of pipelines that would move 178 miles between New York and New Jersey. In one pipe, 200,000 barrels of crude per day, obtained from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation via hydraulic fracturing, would run south to refineries and marine terminals in Linden, New Jersey, and from there its sister pipe would send 200,000 barrels per day of petroleum products north toward Albany, New York.
The company has not submitted a full application to New York or New Jersey, and this preferred route is not yet the chosen route. According to a draft environmental impact statement from September 2016, the potential route would pass through the Ramapo river basin aquifer system, and over two aqueducts that supply New York City, the Catskill Aqueduct and the Delaware Aqueduct. The company argues that the pipeline is a safer alternative to crude traveling via barges on the Hudson River or by trains.
The line would also pass through the Ramapo Mountains. “All the major infrastructure comes through Ramapo Pass – these mountains we took refuge in when we had the genocide against native people,” said Owl, a member of the Ramapough-Lunaape tribe. Owl’s people are descendants of the Munsee band of the Lenape tribe, whose members were largely forced by white settlers to migrate in the 1700s to Canada and other places.
After a visit to Standing Rock last fall, Owl helped his tribe found a camp, called Split Rock Sweetwater, in protest of the Pilgrim pipeline. No one is living at the camp permanently, but there’s always someone on site available to explain its purpose to visitors.
If the Pilgrim pipeline is approved, two parallel 178-milelong pipelines would travel along the New York thruway between Linden, New Jersey, and Albany, New York, sending 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day south, and 200,000 barrels of refined petroleum products like gasoline north. Graphic: The Intercept. Source: Pilgrim Pipeline Statement on Issuance of New York State Positive Declaration, September 14, 2016
“The original decision was in solidarity with Standing Rock. We realized they’re not just fighting for water there but for all of our waters,” he said. When he visited North Dakota, Owl presented Standing Rock tribal leaders with a Ramapough-Lunaape resolution banning fossil fuel infrastructure from passing through their traditional territory.
The Ramapough-Lunaapes are perhaps most famous for the paint sludge that Ford Motor company dumped near their territory, linked to contamination of food and water sources with lead and benzene, and nosebleeds, leukemia, and other ailments among tribal members.
Although New Jersey and New York recognize the Ramapough-Lenaape as a tribe, the federal government does not. When leaders applied for recognition in the 1990s, Donald Trump campaigned to stop them, concerned they would open gambling businesses to compete with his Atlantic City casinos. “I look more like an Indian than they do,” Trump said in 1995, after tribal members demonstrated outside Trump Tower. The federal government declined to grant status.
“In a sense we have seen the future under a Trump administration with the path he’s going toward, with rolling back regulation,” Owl said. “We’ve seen that future because that’s our past.”