By Peter Becker
The local citizen protest over feared environmental damage from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Upgrade Loop 323 detour has taken to the trees.
Jolie DeFeis, a leader in the movement opposing the seven mile detour approved last year by the federal government, said that two protesters have been staging a tree sit-in. They positioned themselves somewhere between Schocopee Road and Cummins Hill Road east of Milford.
On Feb. 20, Orange County, NY resident calling himself "Gifford Pinchot", erected a tree stand to prevent the designated clear cutting required to for construction of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Upgrade between Foster Hill and Cummins Hill roads. Ground support for Gifford were arrested and released in short order. As of Feb. 27, he was still in his tree stand, 30 feet off the ground.
The second tree-sitter, Alex Lotorto of Milford, arrived Feb. 26, just 30 feet from a stump of a tree that was cut down the day before. Not prepared for a long stay, he reluctantly came down when sleet arrived. DeFeis said that Lotorto was arrested when he came down, but was "not deterred from continuing the fight."
She stated Feb. 27th that tree-cutting for the route has been underway for about a week.
They are hoping that the tree-sitting delays the logging long enough to persuade the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the final permits for the pipeline. She stated said that the tree sit-in put off a whole day of Tennessee's forest clearing on a very significant part of Cummins Hill Road.
On Feb. 18, President's Day, Lotorto, along with Allison Petryk of Vernon, NJ, tied himself to an entry gate and blocked off access to the road into a Milford forest so that tree clearing crews would not be able to destroy the trees in that area.
A huge banner was draped from the Milford Bridge spanning the Delaware River Thursday morning, Feb. 22, in opposition to the pipeline.
On Feb. 23, a band of protesters staged a candlelight vigil in downtown Milford, in mourning for the trees cut in the past week. That day, 100 residents and friends marched against the Tennessee Pipeline across the Milford Bridge, from Milford, PA to Montague, NJ over the Delaware River. The march was organized by Stop the Tennessee Pipeline! campaign which opposes the transport of shale gas and encourage full Marcellus Shale development scenario using the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking".
A march is planned down Cummins Hill Road on Saturday, March 2, at noon. "We've tied the trees with symbolic yellow ribbons in June and they are still standing," DeFeis said. "They were meant to be cut in November but have held out and hopefully we will be able to defend them from the chain saws."
County opposes detour
Pike County Commissioners have also taken a firm stand against the route, which opponents state was made to avoid a section of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on the New Jersey side. Opponents of the detour stress that Tennessee Gas Pipeline has an existing right-of-way through the National Park, which could have been used rather than destroying another swath of hilly and wooded terrain and passing near a residential neighborhood.
The Save Cummins Hill opposition group is asking concerned citizens to call the Delaware River Basin Commission, Executive Director Carol Collier at (609) 883-9500 ext. 200. They are asking Collier to reopen the docket for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Upgrade.
Project opponents also ask that Lt. Col. Chris Becking of the Army Corps be contacted at (215) 656- 6502, to ask him to deny the final permits to Tennessee Gas Pipeline.
More information is found online at:
Tennessee Gas Pipeline's web site,