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Environmental activism by Catholic nuns in Pennsylvania.

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project has been greeted with great public opposition especially in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Many residents have pledged to try and frustrate the activities of the project as they feel they haven’t been involved in the process. One such act of protest is the building of an open air chapel by the nuns from Adorers of the Blood of Christ Catholic Church.

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline is a project of Williams Partners LP designed to move Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania to Alabama. The project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in early 2017. Construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline is scheduled to start in mid-2017, but the project has to wait for approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The Sunrise pipeline is expected to go through a number of counties. The counties include Columbia, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Clinton, and Lycoming.

The nuns from the Catholic Church have formed a grass root opposition group called Stand with the Sisters. The chapel comprised of a wooden arbor and pews is erected in a cornfield owned by the church. The cornfield is in the path of the 42-inch diameter pipeline. The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline original plans ran through woodlands, homes, and County Conservancy preserves. Williams Partners LP moved to court to get an easement order. This is an order that allows the government or its agents to use private land for a specific purpose while providing compensation to the owners. In their case for the easement, Williams LP lawyers cited that the chapel would cause irreparable harm to the pipeline.

The nuns, in turn, claimed that allowing the pipeline construction to go on would be a violation of their commitment to the environment. The judge refused to grant Williams immediate possession of the land.

While the final ruling hasn’t been given, a Williams subsidiary is taking the nuns to court for an injunction which would give the company the rights to seize the land by eminent domain. The suit is based on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling that authorized the company to maintain and operate the pipeline on eminent domain. As the eminent domain is yet to take effect, the nuns are not leaving anything to chance.

With the backing of another group opposing the pipeline, Lancaster against Pipelines, the nuns are taking action to stall construction by dedicating the chapel.

The nuns who did not attend any of the legal proceedings spent the time putting up the base structure of the outdoor chapel. They brought benches and placed them in front of a makeshift altar. After necessary preparations had been done, they sent out a press release that welcomed the public and members of all faiths to the chapel dedication ceremony. The ceremony will include presentations by several Adorers and choirs from other religious orders. The Sisters of Loretto, a Kentucky-based order, will attend the ceremony. The Sisters of Loretto had a successful campaign against Williams in 2014.

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