News

South Annville won't oppose controversial natural gas pipeline

Written by Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News | Dec 11, 2015 1:27 PM
loyalsockpipeline.jpg

Photo by Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

A pipeline from a Seneca Resources gas well before getting installed along a road in the Loyalsock State Forest.

(Lebanon) -- The South Annville Township supervisors decided Wednesday night that they would not pass a resolution expressing opposition to the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, disappointing most members of an overflow crowd generated by anti-pipeline activists.

The resolution would have been purely symbolic, but Annville Township and South Londonderry Township previously passed similar measures against the natural gas pipeline that would bisect Lebanon County from north to south. That momentum led opposition group Lebanon Pipeline Awareness to mail notices to all township residents, encouraging them to attend Wednesday's meeting, group president Ann Pinca said.

About 80 residents attended and they spoke for over an hour, most expressing concerns about the safety of the pipeline, the impact a leak could have on well water, and the possibility that it could devalue their properties.

"I'm really disappointed in the decision that our supervisors made. They are elected to serve their residents and taxpayers, and I don't think their decision is doing that," resident Rachel Noll said later. "It's almost like they don't care."

Township Supervisor Donald Umberger said it was a tough decision, but he wanted to represent all of the township's residents - and several residents he spoke with in the days leading up to the meeting supported the pipeline.

Umberger also was not convinced that passing a resolution with no power to stop the pipeline would accomplish anything, he said.

The township previously wrote a strongly worded motion to intervene to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opposing the location of the proposed pipeline through the middle of an area designated for commercial and industrial use, he said. That letter never received a response.

"People are talking like we have the right to say 'yea' or 'nay' to this pipeline," Umberger said at the meeting, according to a recording obtained by the Daily News. "What can we do that will have any effect? Because everything that we've done is like doing nothing."

Still, supporters of the anti-pipeline resolution said it would have sent a strong message to FERC and may have made Williams Partners tread more carefully when constructing the pipeline.

"This might seem meaningless, but I think symbolism matters," Lebanon Pipeline Awareness group member Michael Schroeder said at the meeting.

Not all meeting attendees opposed the pipeline, and one woman said she believes increased extraction and transportation of fossil fuels is necessary for America's energy independence. Supervisor Dale Hoover expressed similar thoughts when asked how the pipeline would benefit the township.

"We've got a large amount of natural gas north of us, and I think everybody benefits if this country becomes energy independent," Hoover said.

The 183-mile Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale regions of northeastern Pennsylvania to the existing Transco pipeline, with which it will connect in southeastern Pennsylvania. Williams Partners says its purpose is to supply natural gas to Mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, although pipeline skeptics say much of that fuel will actually be exported to foreign nations.

Noll isn't giving up. She plans to draft an ordinance herself and present it to the township supervisors for their consideration, she said.

This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF.

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