Workers, businesses that would benefit from gas pipeline swarm Lancaster hearing


This time, the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline’s blue-collar workers, trade organizations and business supporters turned up the heat.

A state Department of Environmental Protection public hearing Monday night in Lancaster that drew about 150 people was to be about whether pipeline builder Williams should receive two needed environmental permits for crossing waterways and erosion controls.

It’s among the last approvals the Oklahoma-based Williams needs to begin building a nearly 200-mile, $3 billion natural gas pipeline, including 37 miles in Lancaster County.

But the merits of those permits were hardly addressed by 45 speakers at the Farm & Home Center.

Rather, 23 of the speakers, both local and outside the area, urged approval of the permits and remarked on what they say are many trickle-down benefits of the pipeline.

They urged the state agency to hurry up and grant the permits so the pipe laying can begin.

“Our pipe layers are ready to lay, so let’s go!” said Wade Pilgren, a union member, said to loud applause from about 50 men who sat together on one side of the auditorium.

“Now, more than ever, there is unprecedented review of these projects. Help rebuild what was once a strong industrial state,” added Ryan Helms, who represented a Lancaster-based electrical union.

He was followed by David Butterworth, who represents a union of welders. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, he promised, “will be built by skilled, safe American-trained workers.”

Unlike a handful of various other governmental hearings on the pipeline over the past two years or so, testimony wasn’t dominated by those who see the project as an unneeded, unwanted for-profit venture involving a fossil fuel that would destroy Lancaster County farmland and the environment.

That sentiment was certainly on display, especially early.

Tim Spiese, a Martic Township resident, said DEP had a “moral obligation” to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of the skein of gas pipelines proposed in the state when vetting Atlantic Sunrise.

Dr. Nancy Jeffries, of Conestoga Township, said her life has “become a personal hell’ in fighting a pipeline that would put her family in an “evaporation zone” and violate 35 preserved farms.

Several speakers scolded DEP for considering a pipeline when the agency’s mission is “to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution...”

Dr. Jay Parrrish, a Lancaster County resident and geologist who used to work for DEP, was dumbfounded that Williams routed the pipeline through one of the most earthquake-prone zones in Pennsylvania in Lancaster County.

Malinda Clatterbuck of Martic Township said angst over the pipeline has caused premature births, divorces and heart attacks among people she knows.

She called the pipeline “a greedy shortcut and it is completely unnecessary."

Her husband, Mark Clatterbuck, scolded DEP as an agency that “serves industry elites, not us,” and warned of a community uprising against the pipeline in Lancaster County.

But those kinds of harsh words were countered by a slight majority of speakers who insisted that the pipeline will be built and operated safely with minimal effects to the environment.

Ed Braukus, who represents a union of electrical workers in Schuylkill County, offered that “farmers have done more harm to downstream waterways than this project will.”

Many of the representatives of trade groups who spoke said the pipeline construction will provide innumerable rippling effects through local economies.

“The time to build is now,” said Jeff Logan, president of the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council.

And David Taylor, an Elizabethtown resident and president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, said to loud clapping, “This project has been vetted time and time again.

“It’s time to move forward.”

The two waterway permits from DEP have taken on added significance since New York’s state environmental agency twice in the last year denied similar permits for major gas pipelines that had been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

On Sunday, Williams posted ads on LancasterOnline.com, urging residents to sign a petition that requests DEP to approve the permits.

Williams called the permit applications “a critical moment.”

DEP said it had no timetable for ruling on the permits.