Ellen Gerhart, a retired special education teacher from central Pennsylvania, is in jail tonight. This afternoon, four officers with the Huntingdon County sheriff’s department arrived on the Gerhart’s property to make the arrest acting in response to a motion filed by Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company notorious for the Dakota Access pipeline. The company is claiming that the 63-year old grandmother was baiting bears and mountain lions onto a pipeline easement the company established using eminent domain to take the family’s land. There have been no sightings of mountain lions in Pennsylvania for 130 years.
See video of the arrest
The Gerhart’s property is on the path of the company’s controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline, a 350-mile hazardous liquids pipeline that would carry natural gas liquids (NGLs) like ethane and propane. The project has been receiving a lot of attention for sinkholes that have opened up in backyards in Chester County and more than 180 drilling mud spills caused by horizontal directional drilling to lay the pipeline. The spills have fouled private water supplies and punctured an aquifer.
“Energy Transfer Partners is yet again fabricating charges against my mom in attempt to silence her,” said Ellen’s daughter Elise. “Claims of wild animal baiting are ludicrous. There aren’t even mountain lions anymore in Pennsylvania. ETP are the ones doing the baiting, goading our local authorities with lies to intimidate and abuse my family. Look at who has actually inflicted damage here: ETP has poisoned dozens of families’ wells across the state, spilled over 100 times, and harassed and intimidated anyone who opposes them.”
A press statement from the StopETP coalition says, “Since pipeline construction began on the Gerhart property, Ellen has spent countless hours monitoring and documenting construction activity. Given that ETP has recorded well over 100 spills and contaminated well water of over a dozen families since construction began, Ellen and her family did not trust state regulators to protect their land and water. Ellen has documented dozens of instances of environmental damage to her property during construction thus far. Evidence of sedimentation, spills, improper erosion controls, and more are all available.”
The Stop ETP coalition is made up of communities and organizations fighting Energy Transfer Partners’ projects across the country. Tree sits are currently happening in Louisiana in an attempt to stop the Bayou Bridge pipeline. In Ohio, communities are fighting the Rover pipeline where drilling mud spills have been wreaking havoc.
Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Louisiana are among several states that have introduced bills to quash pipeline protest. Framed as measures to protect “critical infrastructure”, they are all fashioned after a model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known by its acronym ALEC. Earlier this week, Greenpeace issued a report on Energy Transfer Partners that showed that the company had worked to promote the bill in at least one state.
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