Jason talks about the importance the protecting fresh clean water for today and for generations in Ohiopyle, PA and elsewhere.
Thanks to everyone who joined us Sunday, March 31 2012, Tour de Frack took to the Butler - Freeport Community Trail for a day of family friendly fun as a way to explore the wonders of the area. We rode in great conversation and stories to ward off of the nip of the morning air. Seven riders gathered in Diamond Park at 10:00 for some photos an opportunity to speak with Jodi Weigand from Valley News Dispatch—part of the Trib Total Media Family. Her article, Bike riders chart safety course for Marcellus shale drilling, can be read online.
For me, it was hard to imagine that we’d be leaving from the same place on July 14th to start our journey to DC. Smiles abound, we pedaled forward joking that we’ll enjoy the cool creek in July and stopping to look at the trillium and the waterfalls along the route. The trail is well maintained and passes through some stunning areas. The natural beauty becomes more and more spectacular as we closed in on our destination; Freeport.
We were no more than a mile from the parking lot in Freeport when the mood turned serious. We came across a 100 ft. swath of forest that has recently been cleared for the Exxon/Nisource pipeline. I was worried that we might run across this as my cousin is a property owner in the area. She and her husband bought 65 acres on the creek. Nisource called her about 3 weeks ago informing her that they had bought the rights to a dormant line on their property and were planning on clearing the area the next day. Nisource wanted a 100 ft. right-away. Her husband is an excellent bow hunter and a fisherman. He had no interest in giving up his land. The quality of the land and the great schools made this the perfect place to raise their 5 year-old son where they, with the help of friends and family, are building their home on the property. In the past month, she and her husband made countless trips to the property to check on it and worried sick about what their paradise may become. As it turns out, they were spared. The clearing was put in about 10 feet from their property.
Addition 12/12/12: At the time of posting, it was believed that my cousins’ property had been spared but just a few weeks later, there was another knock on door. As it turns out there was a mistake. The NiSource line had “accidentally” wandered onto their property and a representative was there to make them an offer.
Although they were “lucky,” one resident we spoke with explained that many people in the area were upset about the placement of the pipeline. Nisource is replacing a dormant 10 in. line that was at one time used to transmit diesel and jet fuel with a 20 in. high pressure--1,000 pounds-per-square-inch -- pipeline. The line runs as close as 10 feet from some homes. According to a Valley News Dispatch article dated February 29, 2012 Nisource failed to inform the township supervisors about the work being done in the area and is running it “under lawns, driveways and woods.”
Tony Aulicion complained, “Now they want to come in and change the rules … That's like burying a stick of dynamite." Stories about the reinstitution of old leases are becoming more common in the commonwealth and are playing out it way that almost always anger homeowner. This story highlights the elimination of property owners’ right and the loss of predictability for residents and local officials. How can we plan for the future of our property and development if someone from out of state and buy up an old lease and turn our communities upside-down? The recent rush to lease as much of Butler County as possible will only aggravate this problem in the future. Stories about real estate agents requiring sellers to disclose marcellus and utica leases are common place. One home owner in the eastern part of County was forced to disclose that her neighbor had leased. Why would owners need to disclose this information unless it was viewed by the real estate community as a liability? How will these disclosures affect home prices?
What will the commonwealth look like 20 years from now when any given piece of property could have upwards of four or five owners? Surface, pipeline right-of-way, coal, marcellus, utica, and who knows what else. Whose rights will come out on top? If the passage of Act 13 is any indication, it will not the homeowner.