Next week, I likely face having my land seized by pipeline builder Williams Cos. using the power of eminent domain.
Like most Americans, I believed eminent domain was to be used sparingly, for projects for which there was a compelling need and great public benefit. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline is not that kind of project.
It is about cashing in on a stranded asset, gigantic corporate profit and the unwillingness to use an existing right of way because seizing new property from American citizens is easier.
I have written before about why I oppose this project. It is being built to export natural gas. Pipeline feasibility expert Dennis Witmer documented the absence of domestic demand in the video “A Perspective on Natural Gas Markets.” Natural gas is not as positive as slick commercials say, but 86 times worse for atmospheric warming than coal or oil.
We don’t need new natural gas electricity generation because existing renewable energy technology can meet 80 percent of our electricity demand by 2050, according to the website phys.org. And jobs in solar energy surpass all fossil fuel electrical generation jobs combined, according to data journalist Niall McCarthy, writing for Forbes.
A 42-inch, 1580-pounds-per-square-inch Atlantic Sunrise pipeline is vastly more dangerous than anything in Lancaster County.
We are tragically aware of the recent fatal accident in Millersville involving a much smaller pipeline. If you don’t understand the danger of a massive pipeline explosion, Google Sissonville, West Virginia; Appomattox, Virginia; San Bruno, California; or Salem Township in Westmoreland County. Look for video; the visuals are important.
Currently Conestoga’s risk of this kind of catastrophe is zero.
The gas in the pipeline proposed for our community will not be odorized. We get no warning. For safety, inspectors will fly the route looking for dead vegetation. I wonder about October through March when everything is already dead.
My land sits at the convergence of two valleys. Gas settles into valleys before it explodes and in the event of a catastrophic accident anyone, anywhere on my property, and likely within a half-mile, could be incinerated.
What have I done to defend my rights as a property owner? I have studied and met with countless lawyers and experts.
I hosted a meeting with Republican state Rep. Brett Miller, of East Hempfield Township, in my home. After our meeting, he and Republican state Rep. Bryan Cutler, of Peach Bottom, co-sponsored a bill that would have made it easier for legislative committees to kill environmental regulations, which would have played to the favor of pipeline builders. And Republican state Sen. Scott Martin is considering legislation that would seriously discourage pipeline and other protests.
I was a candidate in a local home rule election in an effort to give citizens a more direct say in local decision-making. I have written, educated, organized events, supported candidates and campaigned. I testified in front of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
I have done all I know to do. I am exhausted.
I have been offered money, at agricultural value, for the right of way Williams will seize. It will not cover any loss of property value, not to mention legal fees. It doesn’t take into account that half the property can only be accessed by crossing the right of way Williams would control. I will be forced to pay taxes on land that is no longer mine. Who would want to buy my property in the future?
I ask you to imagine what this feels like. I am furious that our government is structured to work against citizens it should protect; frustrated because our laws have been hijacked and distorted; and fearful for what may happen should the pipeline fail.
I am, above all, determined. I will not sign an easement offer. I will not agree to have my asset taken and used to fund executive salaries and shareholder dividends. My land will have to be seized from me.
If this kind of assault on rightful landowners goes unchallenged, we are agreeing to surrender the right to own property. I won’t do that.
Pennsylvania faces the possibility of 30,000 miles of new pipelines in the next 30 years, according to a report by NPR’s StateImpact Pennsylvania. Lancaster County lies directly in the path between extraction and export.
Please do not make the mistake of thinking this won’t happen to you. Many are going to face this with the next pipeline proposal, and the next, and the next.
One thing I can do is take a stand, and send the clear message that this is unacceptable.
Kim Kann, a schoolteacher and business owner, is a resident of Conestoga Township.