Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Press Conference & Action at Army Corps of Engineers in Philadelphia

Philadelphia -- From upriver and downriver, from Philadelphia to Milford, PA and across the river in New Jersey, citizens groups and environmental groups joined together today at a lively demonstration in Philadelphia, pressuring the Army Corps of Engineers to intervene in clearcutting now taking place for the Tennessee Gas PIpeline.

The groups highlighted the harm done to waterways and wetlands, to impacted human communities and to vegetation and wildlife, by the clearcutting which has already taken place, which Faith Zerbe of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network called "botched." The advocates pressed the Corps to deny any further permits for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Upgrade Project, or for any fracked gas pipelines in the Delaware River Basin.

"The Army Corps of Engineers has a direct responsibility to protect wetlands, and must deny the permits for any clearcutting in or near wetlands for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline," said Iris Marie Bloom, director of Protecting Our Waters, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Philadelphia.

"President Obama, who directs the Army Corps' vote on the Delaware River Basin Commission, should tell the Corps to stop permitting fracked gas pipelines at all. President Obama's policies must start to match his rhetoric. Scientific data shows that fracked gas, when you include the methane leaked during extraction, processing and distribution phases -- especially compressor stations and pipelines -- escalates climate change even more than coal does, especially in this crucial 20 year period. It is Obama's job to take a step back from the climate cliff, not jump off it."

"We, the communities of the Delaware River watershed have exhausted every path possible to bring rationality to what is happening in the Upper Delaware and the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company's Northeast Upgrade project," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper "We have gone to state court to secure a stay only to have a federal judge issue an injunction against our legal challenge. We are in federal court, where a judge denied our request for an injunction, saying that the loss of the mature forests and healthy wetlands and streams was not an irreparable harm, but that TGP losing a bit of time and money was."

"We have urged the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to exercise its jurisdiction," van Rossum continued, "only to have DRBC admit they made a mistake on two other pipeline projects. But they continue to deny attention to the Northeast Upgrade Project. We have challenged the issuance of permits by each of the state and federal environmental agencies involved. But despite the ongoing legal challenges, the lack of an Army Corps permit, and the obvious obligation of the DRBC to exercise its jurisdiction, this project keeps barreling forward.  The residents of our watershed have been given no choice but to turn out with their voices and bodies to demand the attention and protection our state and federal laws and agencies should be giving us."

"We are here today  to urge the Army Corps to deny any permitting for this project because of the irreparable harm it will do to wetlands and communities; and to use their vote on the Delaware River Basin Commission to ensure that regulatory agency fulfill its legal obligation to review the project," van Rossum concluded.

"The towns along this pipeline upgrade project have become communities of resistance: where residents are organizing to monitor for worker and company violations; to raise residents' awareness about the project; and to put their bodies in the way of the destruction. Milford, Pennsylvania is touted as the home of the American conservation movement," said Rachel Leone, a Philadelphia resident involved with the Stop the Tennessee Pipeline Campaign both upriver and downriver.

"I was born and raised in Vernon, NJ, where the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Loop 324 has already impacted my community and where Loop 323 will end when it's finished," said Allison Petryk, who has been involved with protest on both sides of the Delaware River. "While working as an Outdoor Environmental Educator at the Pocono Environmental Education Center, I fell in love with Pike County and the bountiful hiking and the beautiful vistas.

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 to the valuable ecology we are meant to steward. The pipeline will give enormous incentive for use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," including proposed natural gas power plants like the one in Newark, compressor stations, and all related natural gas infrastructure. I encourage our decision makers to abandon the dead end of fossil fuels and seek to innovate our way toward a clean energy future."

"Our community is currently under attack by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP)," said Jolie DeFeis, a Pike County resident involved with Save Cummins Hill Citizens Group. Thousands of trees are being cut along Loop 323 while a young man defends the forest by living in a tree 30' above the ground. This outrageous situation has escalated to desperate. We shine a light on you, Army Corps of Engineers, to help. Please do the right thing for this broken community by reviewing all alternative routes, not just the one selected by the TGP.  We know a mistake has been made and that National Environmental Policy Act has been breached. The clock is ticking loudly but it's not too late to save us."

Alex Lotorto, a Pike County, PA resident who has been involved in the week-long tree-sit, blockade, and public marches upriver in Milford, PA, was even more emphatic in the statement he sent: "Army Corps of Engineers, stop the pipeline or we will. The plug is yours to pull. We have people in the trees and in the access roads. We won't stop until we win just like we won against your Tocks Island Dam proposal the last time you imagined our river valley as a resource colony."

"Fracking doesn't stop at the well," said Sam Bernhardt, Pennsylvania Organizer for Food & Water Watch. "Pipelines are part of the sprawling infrastructure surrounding this dangerous process turning our region into an industrial zone. They simultaneously damage our communities and make clear that this gas is intended for consumers overseas."

"This pipeline paves the way for years of more death and devastation from fracking.  We have learned better than to let this happen in our backyards after what it has already done to our neighbors," concluded Alex Bomstein, a leader in Protecting Our Waters.

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