By Peter Becker
WESTFALL TWP. - A band of citizens continued their determined stand against Big Industry and federal authorities, Saturday, marching down a still-mostly wooded hilly landscape outside Milford, to a point where a great swath of trees have been cut down.
"STOP THE PIPELINE," the group of about 20- 25 chanted, with a megaphone blaring and banners and posters waving. They paraded down Cummins Hill Road, starting a mile and a half up from Route 6/209 in Westfall Township. It was probably one of the most unlikely scenes for a parade. No one was watching, save for a handful of reporters, a few people in cars passing them and any winter wildlife in the trees.
It was the wildlife, however, as well as the trees themselves, the water in the nearby stream and their own sense of place and value of life for which they were chanting. For the past 10 months, a citizen's movement has been lodging protest against a detour of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Upgrade project. The Loop 323 segment is taking a seven mile detour rather than use the existing pipeline right-of-way through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a route opposed by the National Park Service.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has given approval for this route, and clear-cutting of a new 100-foot path began in February. The route crosses wooded hills, will go under Route 6 and north of the site of the new Delaware Valley school and extend beneath the Delaware River to reach New Jersey. The pipeline is being added to give additional volume for transport of natural gas drilled from the Marcellus Shale.
A local opposition group formed from residents of the Cummins Hill neighborhood and others. Many in the group have been pointedly vocal not only against the specific route, but contrary to transport of natural gas that has been extracted through the environmentally controversial method of well fracking.
They stood in line along the guide rail, with the path of downed trees laid out behind them. They faced across the road where the forest was still intact, but the hungry teeth of chain saws will be aimed- unless the situation can yet be turned around.
A few speeches and updates were heard before they began their march, at the mailbox turn-around of the Crawford development. Tracy Hoffman urged as many as possible to consider traveling to West Trenton, March 6, where their cause will be taken before the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) meeting.
"DRBC is one of our last hopes," she said. The English teacher said that the DRBC was one of only two last chances they have to stop the project- the other being the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has yet to issue permits for wetland crossing or boring underneath the Delaware. "Neither are promising," she told the group, but stressed that as many as can come to West Trenton, the better, to make their point heard.
Alex Lotorto of Milford led the march with a megaphone. He was one of the people who took to civil disobedience in the last couple weeks, parking himself 30 feet up in the trees in an attempt to delay the cutting. Lotorto pointed to the Eastern Hemlock where he stayed for a day, and where he earned an anticipated citation for Defiant Trespass when he finally came down.
He pointed out that the Eastern Hemlock is the State Tree, which he said is emblematic of the "lack of respect" that Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company is showing Pennsylvania by cutting them down.
Lotorto said his family made their livelihood at Cummins Hill selling homes, where now their property values are being threatened.
Comparing this to the widespread timbering of the land over a hundred years ago, which sparked the US Forestry movement led by Gifford Pinchot of Milford, Lotorto said that the current exploitation for gas drilling is another example where the local land is seen as nothing more than a "resource colony."
Ron Krause cheered the crowd with his report of delaying the clear-cutting simply by walking legally back and forth on the public road, in their way. A woman with a baby did the same thing. "One or two people make a big difference," Kraus said. "They were very annoyed... those trees didn't come down."
Referring to the company that owns Tennessee Gas Pipeline, Kraus declared, "Kinder Morgan is raping America."
Information about the Northeast Upgrade Project may be found online at:
Information on the opposition efforts may be found online at:
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