Dept. of Environmental Protection considers Atlantic Sunrise permits

LANCASTER, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is seeking public comment on the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline that is slated to be built in Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

On Monday, DEP got input from supporters who want to see positive economic impacts from the project, and opponents who say those benefits are not enough and do not want their properties touched in any way.

DEP must still approve construction permits for Williams, the company proposing the pipeline, and wants to hear about plans to deal with erosion and sediment control, as well as water obstruction and encroachment, among others.

Those supporters seem to be sensing the finish line of getting the pipeline built.

"Small businesses and workers stand ready to assist in its development," Kevin Shivers, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said. "We have the best hard-working workers in our state who are ready to aid this project."

Supporters argue the pipeline is needed to carry away more natural gas from the Marcellus shale to open markets.

"It has been constrained by the lack of takeaway capacity, and pipelines have been needed to be built to match all of these burgeoning producing areas," Toby Mack, of the Energy Equipment & Infrastructure Alliance, said.

Opponents have been fighting the proposal for three years and say their voices are not being heard.

"Anything that is native is being desecrated," Julia Garcia, a Native American in opposition to the pipeline, said. "The Earth is being desecrated. If we don't have Mother Earth, we have nothing and we need Mother Earth to exist. Mother Earth does not need us."

Others say they are simply noting their opposition for the record, saying they assume that DEP will rubber-stamp the permits and are awaiting face-to-face resistance if and when construction begins.

"If this is your job to protect the environment and make sure Williams does this the right way, then why are you asking for input from the community if the input we have to give, you're not listening to anyway?" Malinda Clatterbuck, a co-founder of Lancaster Against Pipelines, said.

The Department of Environmental Protection says that is untrue.

"When folks come out and they talk about their local communities and what they know and how that applies to the regulations, it actually helps DEP to make a better decision," Megan Lehman, a community relations coordinator with DEP, said.

Another public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday evening at Lebanon Valley College. DEP is collecting public comment on this matter until June 26th.