Just Say No to Pipelines

To be trite: the word "Pipeline" causes even the most jaded environmentalist's knees to quake. I have always thought that this fear was unwarranted. A single pipe is not scary. We all know and love our pipes. The ones that afford us showers, heat our homes and cook our food. I thought pipelines weren’t anything but long pipes. I believed them necessary for the economic success of the United States. But I was wrong; a pipeline is a different beast. It is a line of pipes with thousands of welds, miles of construction work and in an endless battle holding back against dangerous gas pressures.

On August 11, 2014, I entered the pipeline meeting uninformed, conceited and sure that the pipeline was merely another issue that environmentalists were conflating with the end of the world. I now humbly apologize for this attitude of ignorance and egotism.

Unless the information I gained last night was horribly misleading, there is absolutely no reason for the general public to support the installation of the 42 inch Williams Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline. The pipeline, which, if installed, will travel through primarily farmland — the very same farmland for which Lancaster is known. The farmland that allows the Amish to exist. The Atlantic Sunrise will require swaths of up to 175 feet in width to be clear cut in order for the pipe to be laid. Afterwards, a 50 feet wide access corridor will be perpetually in place around the pipeline. For this reason alone many landowners do not want the pipeline on their land. Rightfully, they believe that compensation Williams will give them is not substantial enough to give up all use of vast regions of their property.

In a free market, Williams would have two choices. Either they would offer the landowners enough money to persuade them to give up their land, or they would have to reroute the pipeline around objecting property owners. But luckily, Williams and the rest of the natural gas and oil industries have the government kowtowing to their corporate wants. Eminent domain, a legal concept I previously thought only applied to government projects, can be and is used to force landowners to give up their property for commercial projects. The pipelines are allowed to do this because supposedly necessary for the common good.

However, in this case, this is absolutely not true. Williams has stated that they supply 10% of America’s natural gas now and that they will continue to supply 10% of it after the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline is operational — in short, this pipeline is exclusively designed to facilitate the export of natural gas. As an added “benefit” to the American people, this move will most likely cause domestic natural gas prices to rise. Right now, most natural gas extracted in the United States is used in the United States. With better export abilities, this gas will now be sold on the international market, where the natural gas prices are much higher. Eventually the cheap American natural gas prices will rise up to equilibrium with the world’s prices. Meaning, our energy bills will actually rise because of this pipeline.

The aforementioned downsides of this pipeline are just some of many. There are homeowners insurance implications, ecological considerations and thousands of graphs that could be referenced. As one former state geologist said: “this pipeline is going through one of the most seismically active regions of Pennsylvania. If Williams had thoroughly researched this route, they wouldn’t be doing this.”