PA Nuns Step up Defending Land Against Pipelines

The Adorers pray before Thursday’s hearing resumes, Sister Martha, Sister Bernice, Sister George Ann, Sister Joan and Sister Linda. Photo by Lancaster Online’s Richard Hertzler.

Earlier in July, more than 500 people gathered in a hot and dusty Pennsylvania cornfield yesterday to join the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for the dedication of a new outdoor chapel, built on land about to be seized from them by a corporate developer planning to build a natural gas pipeline. (Read more.)

This past week, five Lancaster County landowners, including the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, were in US District Court in Reading, PA, fighting to keep the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline off their land. Transco/Williams seeks immediate possession of these properties, even though the eminent domain process is far from finalized, according to a press release.

After two full days of testimony and argument, the hearing came to an end. Judge Jeffrey Schmehl said he would review the cases and “render a ruling at an appropriate time.”

Organizers identified key takeaways from the court hearing:

*The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline (ASP) still lacks permits from the Pennsylvania DEP that must be obtained before construction begins. David Sztroin, project manager for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, testified at the hearing that those permits—assuming they come—are not expected until early- to mid-September.

*Furthermore, the PA DEP could ultimately deny Williams the necessary water permits to begin construction, effectively derailing the project. Why should Williams be granted advance access to landowner properties for a project that might never be built? In early 2016, the state of New York denied similar permits for the Constitution Pipeline. That project remains stalled to this day.

*Attorney Michael Onufrak conclusively demonstrated that the ASP is largely designed to export Marcellus fracked gas overseas. This fact clearly undercuts the legitimacy of FERC’s approval of the project, as well as the use of eminent domain.

*On Friday, July 14, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against FERC. The suit alleges that a fracked gas pipeline through their farmland in West Hempfield Township violates their long-demonstrated religious commitment to environmental justice.

The Adorers, whose religious practice includes protecting and preserving creation, which they believe is a revelation of God, allege that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and its Commissioner, Cheryl La Fleur, have violated a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, by forcing the Adorers to use their land to accommodate a fossil fuel pipeline. Such use is antithetical to the Adorers’ deeply held religious beliefs.

The Adorers allege that FERC’s action places a substantial burden on their exercise of religion by taking their land, which they want to protect and preserve as part of their faith, and forces the Adorers to use their land in a manner and for a purpose they believe is harmful to the earth.

See more media stories.

Lucky Lurky Margaret Atwood Retweets On Catholic Sisters

I happen to be reading Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood right now. It’s a delightfully conniving retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set in a maximum security prison.

Then today I was alerted that Margaret Atwood herself retweeted Developers Are Trying to Build a Pipeline Through a Watershed. These Nuns Built a Chapel in Its Path by Heidi Thompson and myself on land defenders in Lancaster County, Penn., that was posted on the Sojourners website. Wow! (Thank you, @MargaretAtwood!)

(Apparently, some people are dedicated to using their twitter powers for good, not for sowing strife!)

The update on the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Lancaster County, Penn., is the judge approved the fossil-fuel company’s right to take a portion of the nuns’ land by eminent domain, but then the nuns filed a religious freedom injunction!

This is a unique approach and I’d say this is an important case to follow. (See July 16, 2017 Washington Post article Catholic nuns in Pa. build a chapel to block the path of a gas pipeline planned for their property by Julie Zauzmer. Thank you, @JulieZauzmer!)

Now, circling back to Margaret Atwood: Hag-Seed is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series published by Hogarth Press (founded in 1917 by none other than Virginia Woolf and her husband). It includes Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (on The Winter’s Tale), Anne Tyler’s The Vinegar Girl (on The Taming of the Shrew), and Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name (on The Merchant of Venice). And due out soon is Tracy Chevalier on Othello!

It’s all mixed up to quote Margaret Atwood and the land defending Catholic nuns in the same blog post. But it comes together for me in this line from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, when Cleopatra realizes that, with the death of her love, the earth shall pass away and–I would add–the icecaps will melt shedding tears across the world:

“O see, my women, The crown o’ th’ earth doth melt. My lord!”–Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (Act 4, Scene 15)
–Rose Marie Berger

Video: Prophet Isaiah Speaks at Standing Rock

Todd Wynward, author of Rewilding the Way, speaks a Christian interpretation of what has happened in Standing Rock in the last weeks.

Using Isaiah 62:1-4, Todd interprets the good news that came with the government’s overturning of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and joins in the Lord’s delight of the people, energy, and all who have opposed the DAPL.

Let the people say: Amen!

No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose

Michael Klare’s written another good summary of where we are with the Keystone XL pipeline and why it’s so important to stop it.

If you can’t join the thousands for Forward on Climate on the National Mall on Sunday, 17 February, please pray that President Obama, new Secretary of State John Kerry, Canadian foreign minister John Baird, and TransCanada CEO Russ Girling will find a way out of this predicament. It’s gone way past access to oil or American jobs.

Starting today, every decision we make has to move us toward a low-carbon future. Moving ahead with the Keystone XL takes us 180 degrees in the wrong direction. And pray for all those who are putting their bodies on the line to stop construction along the Keystone XL route–facing injury,jail, fines, and loss of homes and land–for our sake.

You can send a note to President Obama asking him not to approve the Keystone XL here.

Michael T. Klare writes:

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain. …

Continue reading “No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose”

Largest Protestant Denomination in Canada Rejects Tar Sands Pipeline

The United Church of Canada voted on Tuesday to “categorically reject” the tar sands pipeline project that would carry highly toxic, climate-killing unconventional tar sands petroleum through pristine First Nation’s land in Alberta to British Columbia where it would be shipped on supertankers to China for processing. The so-called Northern Gateway pipeline is the Canadian end of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposed in the U.S.

In the U.S., some have argued that we should accept the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline because if we don’t the toxic petroleum from Alberta will just get shipped to China through a East-West pipeline. But the First Nations people and Canadian Churches are continuing to fight to make sure that pipeline never gets built. There may also be a strategic church divestment strategy to make sure that the United Church of Canada does not have any stockholdings in companies related to TransCanada, Enbridge, or affiliates.

In the U.S., we must do the same. In fact, ranchers and others in Texas are training this summer to nonviolently block with their bodies the pipeline construction bulldozers scheduled to begin clearing land soon.

Again, if we are to have any hope of reversing global warming, we must do these three things:

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

Read the United Church of Canada’s statement on Enbridge Corporation’s tars sands pipeline. Here’s an excerpt:

The 41st General Council has instructed Nora Sanders, the United Church’s General Secretary, to make a public statement “categorically” rejecting construction of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which has a proposed route stretching from northern Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia.

Due to the timely nature of the pipeline review hearings, commissioners asked that this be accomplished soon. In addition, Sanders has been asked to communicate this decision to all courts of the church, the governments of Canada, Alberta, and British Columbia, Enbridge, and all Canadians through media outlets. …

Read whole article here.

Steve Clemens: ‘Why I Got Arrested Over a Pipeline’

Steve Clemens at Tar Sands protest.
As part of the follow-up to the arrest of more than 60 religious leaders on Monday at the White House, we asked participants to take time to craft their “public story,” as civil rights organizer Marshall Ganz calls it. We encouraged them to ask someone in the next few days to do a 15-minute interview with them on the civil disobedience action. The interviewer should ask “Who, What, When, How, Where?” The participant should start answers with her or his senses: Taste, Smell, Hearing, Sight, Touch.

Using the interviewers notes on the answers, craft a good public story that has a plot – challenges they faced, choices they made, and outcomes they experienced – texture, dialogue, and scene. We told folks to stay away from the “issue” and stick with what they personally were wrestling with in their hearts. Write this up in a 2-3 paragraphs. Practice telling the crafted story aloud. Then go tell it to others! This story can then be submitted to the local paper, denominational newsletters, used to preach, tell others in the grocery store, and sent back to Tar Sands Action.

My friend Steve Clemens has posted a wonderful tale of his experiences over at Mennonista. Below is an excerpt:

When I first signed up to come to Washington and return to the White House, I thought to myself: wasn’t it just a year and a half ago that I told Christine that I’m getting too old to spend another night in jail? My experience protesting President Obama’s continuation of the Afghan and Iraq Wars had left me physically very sore (but spiritually content) after 28 hours in the four different DC jails we occupied after our “die in” at the White House the day before the 2010 State of the Union address.

This time it was an email from my friend, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia that got the juices flowing again. He sent me a letter signed by Bill McKibben, Jim Hansen, Naomi Klein, and Wendell Berry (among others) asking us to come to DC at the end of August to nonviolently pressure President Obama to declare that allowing the Trans-Canada project to build the Keystone XL pipeline linking the Alberta Tar Sands oil fields to Houston, TX refineries and Gulf Coast shipping would not be in “the national interest”. Since the proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would cross the international border, Obama can unilaterally declare it is or isn’t in our national interest without Congressional interference. Come to Washington, the letter said, and risk arrest in a two-week civil disobedience campaign. The letter especially encouraged we older folk who have made a very large carbon footprint over our lives to share some of the burden of risking arrest to change our policies. …

Read Steve’s whole account.

Keystone Pipeline and the ‘Social Cost of Carbon’

Randy Thompson, Merrick County, Nebraska, is leading the charge against this dirty oil pipeline.

Starting today in Washington, D.C., “we, the people” will raise our citizen voices against TransCanada/Cononco Keystone XL pipeline project. People will sit in front of the gates of the White House to bring attention to this issue. The Park Police will slap plastic handcuffs on them and keep them under custody for the day. Then, more than likely, fine ’em and let ’em go.

Somewhere between the brilliant chaos of Nebraska farmers, Jewish rabbis, office workers, Catholic priests and nuns, people hell-bent on saving the world, retirees, indigenous leaders, bright-eyed youth, the “temporarily unemployed,” and hundreds of other regular folks risking arrest on the White House sidewalk and the stunningly powerful government-speak of the EPA’s comment on just how bad this pipeline is I find a refreshing mix that is democracy.

“Moreover, recognizing the proposed Project’s life time is expected to be at least fifty years, we believe it is important to be clear that under at least one scenario, the extra GHG [green house gas] emissions associated with this proposed Proje ct may range from 600 million to 1.15 billion tons CO2-e, assuming the lifecycle analysis holds over time (and using the SDEIS’ [State Departments Environmental Impact Statement] quantitative estimates as a basis). In addition, we recommend that the Final EIS explore other means to characterize the impact of the GHG emissions, including an estimate of the “social cost of carbon” associated with potential increases of GHG emissions.

The social cost of carbon includes, but is not limited to, climate damages due to changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from flood risk, and ecosystem services due to climate change. Federal agencies use the social cost of carbon to incorporate the social benefits of reducing CO2 emissions into analyses of regulatory actions that have a marginal impact on cumulative global emissions; the social cost of carbon is also used to calculate the negative impacts of regulatory actions that increase CO2 emissions.”–Cynthia Giles, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (letter 6 June 2011)