It’s not clear if workers intended to work on Presidents’ Day on February 18, but two young people took steps to stop construction. Allison Petryk, of Vernon, NJ, and Alex Lotorto, of Milford, PA, chained themselves to a gate at the Delaware State Forest, part of which is being clear-cut to lay new pipe for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) Northeast Upgrade.
The controversial project has drawn criticism from many quarters, as the company received permission to dig a seven-mile trench around Milford Borough in which to place the pipe rather than using the existing right-of-way, which critics say will have much less impact on the environment and individual property rights. The existing right-of-way runs through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
According to the group Save Cummins Road, which has been fighting the construction of the pipeline loop, the Army Corps of Engineers did not investigate other possible routes for the project because the pipeline company told them the loop route was the only one available.
On February 14, a federal court of appeals denied an emergency motion to block the project from moving forward, which had been filed by Delaware Riverkeeper Network. The next day, TGP began acting on a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and started cutting trees for the project, which prompted Petryk and Lortorto to participate in their act of civil disobedience.
Petryk and Lotorto planned to remain at the gate at the end of Schocopee Road throughout the work day to prevent access by tree clearing crews.
Petryk wrote in a statement, “The Tennessee Pipeline is a major artery for the monster that is the Marcellus Shale industry that will cut across the Delaware River Valley with disrespect to the people here and valuable ecology we are meant to steward. The pipeline will give enormous incentive for use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, proposed natural gas power plants like the one in Newark, compressor stations, and all related natural gas infrastructure.”
The protesters are urging the public to contact the Delaware River Basin Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to have the project halted.
The Kinder Morgan Company, which owns TGP, says on its website (tinyurl.com/bcz2mvr), “The project will generate millions of dollars for the state and local economies from living expenses, entertainment, and, in some cases, temporary jobs. Moreover, depending on the region in which the facilities are located, the townships and/or boroughs will see a significant increase in revenue from annual property taxes paid by Tennessee after the Northeast Upgrade Project is placed in service.”
The company also says natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is versatile, clean abundant and domestic.