Backyard Talk

Homeowners Take Fight Against Gas Pipeline Land Grab To U.S. Supreme Court

By Sharon Franklin.
For nearly a decade, Michelle and Gary Erb lived on a rustic, 72-acre plot of land east of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and then it became a construction site for a pipeline that can move 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.  The Erbs soon found out that Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (Transco), a wholly owned subsidiary of the $8.6 billion energy-infrastructure titan Williams, demanded access to the their land  to enable it to build the 200-mile Atlantic Sunrise pipeline that expands the nation’s largest natural-gas pipeline system to the Marcellus Shale. As reported by Nick Sibilla Senior Contributor Forbes Magazine
As with most eminent domain cases like the Erbs, Transco offered to pay for a six-acre easement. When they declined, Transco authorized eminent domain claim and forced the Erbs to hand over the property anyway.  Now after having their land dug up, and more than a year and a half later, the Erbs still haven’t seen a dime for their land from Transco.
The Erbs say“The system as it stands right now is very unfair and very unethical; it is very un-American,”   “Right now the gas line companies are just steamrolling over private landowners and taking whatever they want, whenever they want it and with no restrictions by the courts.”  The Erbs have felt this judicial steamrolling up close and personal.  Even though the  The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that because Transco “already had the substantive right to possession,” due to its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certificate, which granted Transco preliminary injunction for immediate possession “merely hastened the enforcement of the substantive right—it did not create any new rights.”  In other words, “the only question was ‘the timing of the possession.’”
The Erbs fought back with the assistance of the Institute for Justice, and countered in its cert petition, “An entitlement to possess land now is substantively different from an entitlement to possess land in the future.”  In a standard eminent domain case, “the condemnor or Transco has the option to either purchase the property at the adjudicated price or move to dismiss the condemnation.” After all, Transco may decide to walk away from the property if they’re unwilling to pay the just compensation determined by the court, and the court’s injunction did actually alter the rights of the Erbs in a substantial way:
The Erbs and the Institute of Justice cited, that prior to the entry of the preliminary injunctions, petitioners had the right to exclude Transcontinental and its agents from their land. After the entry of the preliminary injunctions, the company had the right to exclude petitioners from the land. The right to exclude is, as [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][the Supreme Court] has held time and again, one of the most important substantive aspects of property ownership.”
Many Circuit Courts throughout the United states have conflicting ruling on this issue, and ultimately, only the Supreme Court can resolve this important question. Protecting private property rights shouldn’t be a pipe dream.
Gary Urb sums it up “Transco is taking advantage of a broken system with the lower courts rubber-stamping what the pipeline companies are doing. “Our fight is about more than just our property. It is a fight for everyone that can’t fight.”


No more toxic jobs in Appalachia

They scream jobs and like a carrot on a stick, and politicians chase them. Out-of-state and out-of-country companies come to capitalize on West Virginia’s people. They minimize the health impacts, such as cancers and neuro-developmental defects. OVEC Project Coordinator Dustin White told the group. Read more.


Locals thank Army official for approving Lewiston nuclear cleanup

The citizens’ committee which for years has urged removal of nuclear waste from a federally owned Lewiston site issued a statement Thursday thanking Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James for moving ahead with the project.
James’ signature on the plan late Monday “was like manna from heaven,” said Amy H. Witryol, secretary of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board.
James’ action came after complaints last week from the board and the Niagara County Legislature about a 39-month wait for approval of the $490 million Corps of Engineers plan to clean up the Niagara Falls Storage Site on Pletcher Road. It has been the repository of waste from the World War II atomic bomb project. Congress, however, may not appropriate the funding until 2025, a Corps official said.
Read the press release from the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board here.

Media Releases

United Nation’s Tribunal Recommends Worldwide Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing.

Contact: Lois Marie Gibbs (CHEJ/PAI) 703-237-2249
Teresa Mills  (CHEJ)  614-539-1471
United Nation’s Tribunal Recommends Worldwide Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is recommending a worldwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, the extreme oil and gas extraction technique known as  ‘fracking.’ The Tribunal found that the materials, and infrastructure of fracking inherently and necessarily violate human rights. The specific rights violated include the rights to life, to water, to full information and participation, and especially the rights of indigenous people, women and children.
“I hope the United States heeds the warnings of the UN Tribunal and puts a stop to any and all fracking related activities immediately given these findings,” said Lois Gibbs founder of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice/ People’s Action Institute (CHEJ).
CHEJ was involved in three of the United States field Tribunals in Athens’s, Youngstown, Ohio and Charlottesville, VA. Lois Marie Gibbs served as a Juror in all three field Tribunals. Teresa Mills CHEJ’s Ohio organizer was both on the overall advisory panel and assisted community leaders to understand the rules and help with logistics in all three field hearing.  The field hearings provided the basic information for the findings.
Gibbs recalled, “as a Juror I heard innocent people share their experiences living near fracking infrastructures. Children needing to dodge 100’s of trucks to get to school. Families who could light their faucets on fire due to the gas getting into their water supplies. Women, men and children made sick with asthma, cancers, skin disease and so much more who were not allowed to know what chemicals were being sent miles below their properties and evaporating into their air from fracking waste ponds.
This is an incredible victory for the people and provides clear impartial conclusion that communities can use to fight back against Fracking.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, based in Rome, is an internationally recognized Civil Society public opinion tribunal functioning independently of state authorities. It applies internationally recognized human rights law and policy to cases brought before it.
Governments have an affirmative obligation to protect the rights of their citizens, according to internationally recognized human-rights Covenants and Declarations. When governments fail to adequately regulate harmful oil and gas industry practices, they fail to meet their human rights obligations. And when governments fail to take measures to prevent the advance of climate change and its impacts on the rights to life, liberty, and security, they are failing to meet their internationally recognized human-rights obligations. Widespread government failures have created a global “axis of betrayal,” according to the international court, in which governments and fossil-fuel industries collude – at great cost to people and the planet – in human-rights violations to their mutual profit.
The Special Session was conducted for five days in May of 2018. Four Preliminary tribunals had been conducted in the months prior to the Plenary hearings. The Pre-tribunals included rich oral testimony from Australia, the US states of Ohio and Virginia, and other places, supporting documentation, and findings from those Pre-tribunal’s local judges. All materials and reports from those Pre-tribunal hearings, all the Plenary session’s oral testimony and arguments, all Plenary session reports, amicus curiae briefs and full documentation are available, in both video and text formats, on the website for the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change.
The full text of the Opinion is attached. It is also available on the website for the PPT Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change and on the Jurisprudence page of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal website at their headquarters in Rome.