Pipeline opponents in Lancaster County stage walkout from public hearing

LANCASTER, Pa. - Dozens of people who attended a public hearing Monday on the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline did not stick around for long.

Instead, after a brief statement from Tim Spiese, one of the opponents, the group members each put on a surgical mask and filed out of the building one by one to hold a hearing of their own outside.

The hearing, held by the Department of Environmental Protection, was about the air quality plan proposed by Williams for the construction of the pipeline.

"It still means that they'll pollute more, and we can't afford to worsen our air here, so it's just one more insult from government regulatory agencies against the people, in favor of the industry," Spiese said.

Under the proposed air quality plan, Williams would purchase emission reduction credits from a resource recovery facility in Harford County, Maryland, to offset the anticipated nitrous oxide emissions expected from construction of the pipeline.

"Rather than just temporarily purchasing these for the temporary construction activities, it's actually going to be a permanent air quality credit they are purchasing that will obviously benefit the environment long-term," Stephanie Wissman, executive director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, said.

Those people who remained in the meeting hall once again made the argument to state regulators to greenlight the pipeline project.

"No matter what it is you're making, you're consuming a large amount of energy," said David N. Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association. "Making the most of this energy opportunity is indispensable to our manufacturing employers and that's why we need new infrastructure to plug it all together."

Residents said they are also concerned about groundwater supplies, including where the pipeline would cross the city of Lancaster's water line in West Hempfield Township.

"My concern is is the DEP going to support the residents," Mindy Roye, who lives near that crossing, said.

The Department of Environmental Protection is taking comment on this aspect of the permitting process until 4:30 p.m. Monday, August 21.

There is no timetable on when a decision could be made, according to a DEP spokesperson.