On Monday, students from 19 Pennsylvania colleges and universities delivered a statement to Governor Tom Wolf's Capitol office demanding no new natural gas pipelines and immediate investment in green jobs.
The students are attending Pennsylvania Student Power Spring Break near Harrisburg, an alternative spring break program for students working on social, economic, and environmental justice issues across the state.
The statement delivery at the governor's office was led by 23 year-old Ashley Funk, the lead plaintiff in Funk vs Wolf, a lawsuit against the governor by citizens alleging that Pennsylvania has failed to meet its obligation to act on climate change.
Ms. Funk, a Westmoreland County resident and environmental engineering student at Wellesly College and Olin College of Engineering said, "I grew up playing in a waste coal dump behind my house and in a community impacted by what the coal industry left behind. My science education has made me deeply concerned that Marcellus Shale drilling and pipelines to support it are going to lead us down the same dark path. We are here to tell Tom Wolf that our young minds can answer the question of what's next for clean energy and green jobs to bring economic opportunity to our communities. We don't want our livelihoods to continue to be disrupted by unsafe water and an unstable climate."
Funk, whose lawsuit is now under consideration of the PA Supreme Court, added, "If he doesn't agree, young people will take notice, and there will be political consequences."
Jeremy Griffin, a 20 year-old from Philadelphia, said, "I study environmental science at Kutztown University to become more respected in the field and I feel as if this is a great issue fornWolf.to show everyone in Pennsylvania that he understands the science behind climate change and will take action."
Currently, the final permitting and construction of five major controversial natural gas transmission pipelines meant to ship gas out of the state is underway. All five are seeking the use of "quick take" eminent domain to seize property from resistant landowners without compensation until after the project is finished. All five fall under Governor Wolf's jurisdiction for water and air permits and are meeting local opposition.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline would stretch from Washington County near Pittsburgh east to Philadelphia, where gas liquids already arriving via Mariner East 1 are loaded onto boats to be shipped to Norway for plastics manufacturing. PA DEP has issued water permits for waterbody crossings, but that has been appealed by environmental groups to the Environmental Hearing Board.
The Northern Access Pipeline would begin in McKean County and deliver gas to Canada and western New York. The New York Department of Environmental Protection has yet to issue final water and air permits, but PA DEP has issued theirs.
The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline is proposed to run from Susquehanna County, where shale gas drilling is the most dense in the state, to Lancaster County, ultimately shipping gas to southern states and also to be exported from Lusby, Maryland to Japan via the Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal. PA DEP has issued their water permit, but that has been appealed by environmental groups to the Environmental Hearing Board.
The Rover Pipeline would leave Washington County and stretch west through Ohio and into Michigan.
The Orion Upgrade of the existing Tennessee Pipeline in Pike and Wayne Counties is proposed to ship even more gas to the New York metropolitan area.
The spring break program is sponsored by Pennsylvania Student Power Network, Energy Justice Network, and Powershift Network with a grant by the Heinz Foundation.
We are members of the Pennsylvania Student Power Network, a growing network of youth who are committed to fighting for social, economic, and environmental justice across the Commonwealth. We come from community colleges, state system universities, private colleges, and state related universities. This past week, 50 students from 19 different schools participated in an alternative spring break program to hone our skills and learn from each other about the many issues we face on our campuses and in our communities. The culmination of our experience is this statement we are delivering to you to support our peers working across Pennsylvania.
We Support Environmental Justice
As of 2017, Pennsylvania has drilled over 10,000 shale gas wells in just over ten years. In that time, the PA DEP has issued 284 determination letters notifying landowners that drilling or fracking activity has caused the contamination of their drinking water.
The glut of gas has driven a demand for new pipelines and the use of eminent domain to seize easements from resistant property owners. Hundreds of compressor stations have been built without using adequate emission reduction technologies, putting rural residents’ health at serious risk due to air pollution. Most importantly, mega natural gas power plants and the buildout of Philadelphia’s gas hub have been proposed and are under construction, against the will of local residents who don’t wish to live in the shadow of smoke stacks.
It’s time for Pennsylvania to make the transition to clean energy. We are calling for a commonwealth economy that hires workers into the implementation of solar, wind, geothermal, green construction standards. We call for zero waste goals for trash and recycling, and weatherizing homes and businesses. We call for direct investment in coalfield and shalefield communities to replace water supplies, retrain workers, and develop a resilient rural economy that doesn’t rely on dirty energy.
Most urgently, we demand an immediate stop to construction of new transmission pipelines to ship gas out of Pennsylvania including the Mariner East Pipeline, Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, expansion of the Tennessee Pipeline, the Rover Pipeline, and Northern Access Pipeline. These projects are just another historic abuse by big industry of working families in Pennsylvania and of our environment.
Article 1 Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads, “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
We are your constituents, and it is your responsibility to uphold the Constitution on our behalves. We remind you that it is in your power to permit or deny the building of pipelines in the commonwealth. Your decision on this matter will affect your political legacy, and determine whether you receive the support of students statewide in the upcoming election cycle.
As students who will inherit the world you leave behind, we demand no new pipelines!