In Conestoga Township, Lancaster County, activist Leslie Bunting says much of the community opposes the Williams Partners pipeline that’s planned for the area. Part of it is set to run across Indian burial grounds in nearby Manor Township.
She’s part of a community group that’s pushing for “home rule” in her town. That would allow people to vote on major township decisions instead of leaving them to the township Supervisors. The move comes after the supervisors voted against a ban on pipelines in December. The township solicitor had told them it wouldn’t matter, but many disagreed.
“So it came down to three people making a choice for the people that the whole community didn’t agree with,” says Bunting. “This is what would speak for the community.”
Bunting says the issue is splitting the town apart, and it’s a scene that could be repeated.
“Start early,” she says to other townships who may want to oppose pipeline plans. “These people know what they’re doing, they do it for a living, they go into communities and they tear them apart.”
John Quigley, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, says a dozen significant or major pipelines are in the planning stages now and that pipelines will impact every county in PA within the next 10 years. He calls it a “spider web” and says even counties without any drilling will see interstate transmission lines.
“The extent of development and the scale of development is unprecedented,” he says.
Quigley is meeting with pipeline developers and encouraging them to share right-of-ways and infrastructure to lessen the impact. He made similar efforts with wind turbines during the Rendell administration.
“There are big potential impacts and if we can plan smarter and avoid some of those impacts, I think that’s something that we have to do,” he says.
A Williams Partners spokesman told us the company has had hundreds of meetings already, listening to local stakeholders. He points out pipelines deliver needed natural gas, including to UGI, serving some Lancaster customers.
Williams Partners will submit their final route for the pipeline to FERC at the end of this month. Then FERC will decide whether to approve it.