Nuns Head to Court to Defend Chapel Blocking Pipeline Route
By Jessica Corbett
A group of about 30 Catholic nuns in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who constructed an open-air chapel on the proposed path of natural gas pipeline, are in court on Monday fighting efforts by the fossil fuel company trying to seize their land.
The sisters appeared at a U.S. District courthouse in Reading for an 11:00 a.m. hearing, following two prayer vigils earlier Monday morning.
About six months ago, they came up with the idea to build the chapel on their farmland as "a visible symbol of their commitment to the land," Mark Clatterbuck, of Lancaster Against Pipelines—which helped build the chapel—told the York Daily Record, a local paper.
"We have to pay reverence to the land God has given us," said Sister George Ann Biscan. "We honor God by protecting and preserving His creation."
Friday, seeking a federal injunction, the Adorers filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claiming the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates interstate natural gas pipelines, and its commissioner have violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, "by forcing the Adorers to use their land to accommodate a fossil fuel pipeline," the order said in a statement.
The nuns, the statement continued, "allege that FERC's action places a substantial burden on their exercise of religion by taking their land, which they want to protect and preserve as part of their faith, and forces the Adorers to use their land in a manner and for a purpose they believe is harmful to the Earth."
The complaint followed an emergency motion filed by the pipeline's developer, Tulsa-based Williams Companies, "in an attempt to take immediate possession of the property and get permission to deploy U.S. Marshals on the nuns and 'any third parties authorized by the sisters to be on the property,'" Sojourners reported.
The pipeline, called "Atlantic Sunrise," is slated to stretch across more than 180 miles of central Pennsylvania and link to the company's Transco pipeline, which carries gas from the Gulf of Mexico to the East Coast. FERC approved the project in February, and Williams began construction in early spring. The company has settled with more than 1,000 landowners impacted by the pipeline, and when attempts to negotiate with Adorers failed, it tried to seize the land through eminent domain.
Speaking of their battle with Williams, Sister Bernice Klostermann told YDR: "They've said we're just looking to get more money. We're not looking for money. We want to preserve this land."
The sisters belong to the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, which was founded in 1834 in the rural mountains of Italy. The order—which today has 2,000 members worldwide, with more than 200 in the U.S.—reached nearby Columbia, Pennsylvania, in 1925, and acquired 90 acres of farmland, which is now leased to local farmers. The order has made environmental protection a part its mission, and the sisters embroiled in this land battle with Williams seem to exemplify its motto: "You will lack nothing if God is with you. Be a woman of great courage."
Their chapel—nestled in a carved-out section of their cornfield—sits atop a bed of straw, and features an arbor as well as a pulpit composed of wood from fallen trees. Eight benches placed in front of the altar serve as pews. A rope full of colorful solidarity ribbons runs along the chapel's perimeter.
"People can come at any time of the day, and even night if they want to pray and they're free to walk around, to tie another ribbon on just to let people know that they've been here and that they are praying and supporting us," Sister Biscan said.
One supporter left a homemade wooden birdhouse at the site, with the inscription: "One day a family of beautiful choir singers will move in this house to help defend this chapel and to remind you of why you stand strong."
Sunday night, about 100 supporters gathered at the chapel for a public vigil sponsored by Lancaster Against Pipelines, according to local reports. "Everyone of good will is invited to join in this vigil as we continue to #StandWithTheSisters against corporate violation of religious, environmental and community rights," the group said Saturday. The vigil included a ribbon-tying ceremony, during which attendees added solidarity ribbons to the perimeter rope.
The fate of the sisters' cornfield chapel remains uncertain. As Washington Post reported Sunday:
U.S. appeals court judges have ruled inconsistently on whether federal law protects religious groups from eminent domain in such cases. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which covers Delaware, New Jersey and the part of Pennsylvania where the nuns reside, has yet to issue a ruling on the matter. Legal observers say a case could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, even if the injunction is granted, it is unclear the degree to which the sisters' chapel will impact construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. According to a website managed by the developer, "Williams has already incorporated more than 400 route variations into the proposed route to address stakeholder concerns—and we are still making adjustments."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Santa Barbara Becomes First California City to Pass Resolution Against Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
The Santa Barbara City Council approved a resolution Tuesday opposing new drilling off the California coast and fracking in existing offshore oil and gas wells. The resolution is the first in a new statewide campaign to rally local governments against proposals to expand offshore fossil fuel extraction in federal waters.
The vote—which makes Santa Barbara the first California city to oppose both fracking and new offshore drilling—follows President Trump's April 28 executive order urging federal agencies to expand oil and gas leasing in federal waters. The order could expose the Pacific Ocean to new oil leasing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Starting Wednesday, the vast majority of Americans can learn about every potentially harmful chemical in their drinking water and what scientists say are the safe levels of those contaminants. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The organization has earned a reputation for ambitious data-mining research projects that shake up policy debates and consumer markets. EWG's online Farm Subsidy Database, listing millions of subsidy recipients, and its Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products, draw tens of millions of visitors every year.
By Stacy Malkan
Ever since they classified the world's most widely used herbicide as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a team of international scientists at the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer research group have been under withering attack by the agrichemical industry and its surrogates.
In a front-page series, The Monsanto Papers, the French newspaper Le Monde described the attacks as "the pesticide giant's war on science," and reported, "to save glyphosate, the firm [Monsanto] undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means."
The lengthy report from the Energy and Policy Institute uses reams of archival documents to demonstrate that utility industry representatives knew as far back as 1968 that burning fossil fuels could trigger "catastrophic effects" on the climate.
By Sharon Kelly
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On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.
By Andy Rowell
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By Colleen Curry
People traveling across America today can, if they're lucky, pitch a tent in the same exact spot that early American explorers and map-makers Lewis and Clark did, amid the jagged rocks and sweeping plains of the Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana.
Brent Rose, a journalist and filmmaker who has been traveling around the U.S. in a van for two years, was one of the lucky ones.
Kyara, a killer whale born at SeaWorld San Antonio just three months ago, died Monday at the park, as reported in this video from Newsy. Kyara is the last orca to be born in captivity under the SeaWorld breeding program, which shut down in 2016.
In a statement, SeaWorld said the cause of death was "likely pneumonia" and that "Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week."