Business owners, year-round and seasonal residents kicked off the summer tourist season in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains today with a picnic—and a plea to local, state, and federal officials to preserve the region’s way of life in the face of a proposed gas pipeline project in the Marcellus Shale.
“My guests come here because they enjoy the beautiful serenity, the starlight, the sun and moon dancing off the creek,” said Andrea Young, owner of the Creekview Country Cottage Bed & Breakfast. “The pipeline would disrupt all the peace my guests have come to expect.”
Tomorrow, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to issue an Environmental Assessment of the 39-mile pipeline project that would slice through the region and tear up almost 600 acres of land in Bradford, Sullivan, and Lycoming counties.
For generations, visitors have flocked to the Endless Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania to enjoy the region’s river gateways, rolling hills, family farms, river towns, historic districts and quaint rural villages—helping to feed the state’s $26-billion-a-year tourism industry.
“As summer 2011 begins let’s not forget what summer is about. The endless mountains are precious and irreplaceable,” said John Trallo, a Sullivan County resident. “Nobody wants to take a vacation in an energy park.”
But the Central New York Oil and Gas Company wants to install an industrial gas pipeline that would replace wooded mountains and pastoral landscapes with 39 miles of pipeline, additional miles of lateral gathering lines, access roads, massive compressor units, filter separators, gas coolers and other industrial machinery. (View map of the proposed pipeline route.)
Business owners and year-round and seasonal residents fear that if the pipeline project goes through as planned, it could mean the end of summer as they’ve known it in the Endless Mountains.
“I came here in 1969 and keep coming back,” said Michael Stasiunas, Owner, Forksville General Store. “As they say, once you dip your foot in Loyal Sock Creek, you always come back.”
The pipeline proposal comes as other parts of the state struggle with an explosive rate of gas drilling and an outbreak of industrial accidents and pollution related to rushed and irresponsible development. Unlike New York, Pennsylvania has allowed Marcellus shale gas development and infrastructure construction to proceed without any comprehensive environmental analysis.
“The residents of the Gulf coast thought the fish and tourism industry was safe and so did the people of Fukushima,” said Dr. Arno Vosk, Emergency Room Doctor, Williamsport Hospital and Medical Center. “The potential for a major disaster is real and we can’t possibly be prepared,”
FERC’s expected Environmental Assessment will indicate whether the agency believes the pipeline project will have a significant environmental impact. If the project will have significant impacts, FERC is required to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, a more thorough and comprehensive review.
Groups believe that an Environmental Impact Statement is necessary and should take into account the effect not only of the pipeline itself, but the additional gas drilling the pipeline will spur.
Thursday’s event was organized and attended by members of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Coalition for Responsible Growth & Resource Conservation, Responsible Drilling Alliance, Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Sierra Club (Pennsylvania Chapter).