Clear-cutting starts for Constitution Pipeline

By MICHAEL SCHREIBER

Despite protests by residents and environmental groups, clear cutting of trees has begun in northeastern Pennsylvania for the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline, designed to carry Marcellus Shale fracked gas to New York and New England.

Megan Holleran says that the loggers are destroying about 90 percent of her family’s sugar maple trees, devastating their syrup business. Her family maintained in court that the pipeline construction outfit, led by Williams Partners LLC, had no right to seize their land under the rules of eminent domain since the gas is destined to be exported, rather than being used for the “public good.” Over a hundred protesters came to the Hollerans’ Susquehanna County farm in February, to support the family’s attempt to stop the clear cut.

On Feb. 18, U.S. District Court Judge Malachy Mannion in Scranton, Pa., dismissed the Hollerans’ court suit and gave the go-ahead for the loggers to cut down the trees—just as harvest time is about to begin in the maple groves. In fact, the judge expanded the area to be logged, authorizing a 150-foot-wide “safety barrier” of cleared land. The government and pipeline construction firm “refused to see us as people, and brought guns to our home,” said Megan Holleran, referring to the U.S. marshals and company strong-arms guarding the site.

All together, some 750,000 trees in the path of the pipeline are due to be felled—mainly in New York State. Most of the route goes through rugged mountainous areas, which are already prone to erosion and flooding during rain storms, according to local people.

Logging has been halted in New York by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman since the state has not yet granted environmental approval. Anti-pipeline activists have called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to refuse permits for the pipeline. Megan Holleran took part in a news conference in Albany on March 2.

The pipeline would be owned and run by a consortium of powerful oil and gas companies. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved construction of the Constitution Pipeline in December 2014 as the first installation within a network of new pipelines that are planned throughout the region.

Photo: Megan Holleran speaks to reporters about the seizure and destruction of her family’s maple farm in order to build the pipeline. Vera Scroggins / DCMediaGroup