Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gas Pipeline Poses Major Problems

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade

(This op-ed was printed Jan. 16, 2016, in the Daily Item newspaper, Sunbury, PA.)

It is with great alarm that I respond to the Dec. 31 article claiming that the proposed methane gas pipeline recently given the environmental greenlight by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) will have “no major impact” and “won’t pose a problem.”  How can 54 stream crossings and 550 disturbed acres have no impact?  How can pumping 176 million cubic feet of methane gas at a pressure rate of 1480 psi pose no problem?  

It appears that FERC, members of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, SEDA-COG, Rep. Tom Marino, and the other lawmakers who have touted the ephemeral benefits of this project are either unaware of or deliberately ignoring clear warnings that such a project would be a hazard for the Valley and the planet.

Not one of these individuals has acknowledged the climate crisis and the impact this pipeline and the Hummel Station would have in exacerbating the amount of greenhouse gas that would result.  According to the Environmental Defense Fund, about one-fourth of the human-caused climate change we’re experiencing today is due to methane emissions, which are 20-25 percent more potent than carbon dioxide over a 25-year period.  

Certainly our local leaders are aware that last month, 196 nations representing billions of earth citizens, gathered in Paris and agreed on a plan to slow global warming in the hope of averting the most disastrous effects of climate change. With such awareness, why are our elected and appointed officials ignoring the global message, and instead laying plans to invest billions of dollars and make an irreversible commitment to the use of methane? 

As Responsible Drilling Alliance activist Barb Jarmoska has said, “The woeful burden of this Pennsylvania paradox will rest on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.” (

Porter Ranch, CA, gas leak, as shown by infrared camera.
And maybe they have not been informed about the number and severity of methane gas pipeline explosions which have a blast zone of up to quarter of a mile.

According to the PHMSA, “This trend is disturbingly upward over the past 20 years.”

Is this really the kind of risk we want in the Susquehanna Valley?

If you are one of the many landowners who has not yet agreed to allowing this extremely risky pipeline through your property – do not allow yourself to be misled or bullied.  Do not back down from protecting the sanctity of your land.  It is time for residents of the Valley to realize that the threats of this pipeline are real and immanent, and that action needs to be taken to prevent this incursion into our community. 

Now is not the time to be sinking more money into dangerous methane infrastructure. 
This is the time when we need visionary business leaders and elected officials to see that the future for the Susquehanna Valley needs to be on clean technologies – not the dirty fuels of the past.  We have the workforce and we have the factory sites to be building solar panels, wind turbines, and many more types of clean technologies.  Where are the entrepreneurs and investment backers to help kick-start these projects and lead Pennsylvania into true energy independence?

The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade is a member of Susquehanna Valley Progressives and author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecological Theology and Homiletics (Chalice Press, 2015).

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