Residents are suing to halt tree-cutting along the route of a controversial gas pipeline through the Endless Mountains region of Northeast Pennsylvania. Represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, members of Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, and the Coalition for Responsible Growth and Resource Conservation filed an emergency motion this week challenging a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC denied an earlier motion for rehearing by the groups, prompting this week’s legal action. Today is the deadline for FERC to respond to the groups’ motion.
FERC authorized Central New York Oil and Gas Company (CNYOG) to begin cutting trees before the company had fulfilled all necessary pre-construction requirements.
The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the project would result in the destruction of more than 200,000 mature trees. The 39-mile industrial gas pipeline, which would tear up 600 acres of land and cross more than 100 waterways, has drawn criticism from EPA officials, 35 state representatives, and more than 22,000 members of the public.
The pipeline project cuts through land owned by more than 100 property owners. FERC granted CNYOG the power to seize private property for the pipeline on November 14. Within a matter of days, the company began condemnation proceedings against nearly half of the property owners along the pipeline's route. View a map of the proposed pipeline route.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg:
“We are seeing a very troubling pattern at work. At every turn, the Central New York Oil & Gas Company has pressured FERC regulators to fast-track this project. FERC is bowing to this pressure, even to the point of bending its own rules.
“We’ve been watching and we’ve seen property owners mistreated. We’ve seen the failure to disclose how dangerously close this pipeline runs to an elementary school. What we have not seen is the thorough review of this project’s environmental and public health impacts that the law clearly requires. This is why we are taking legal action. To remind regulators of their duty: to watch out for the people and places that will be impacted by this project.
“Furthermore, given the gas industry’s current financial woes, now is not the time to be rushing a project in a previously undeveloped area. A hastily approved and constructed pipeline is the last thing this region needs.”