Nuns and local residents are protesting the planned construction of a pipeline in Pennsylvania by opening up a chapel on the project’s proposed path.
Members of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, an order of Catholic
sisters, as well as advocates from local grassroots group Lancaster Against Pipelines held a dedication ceremony on Sunday for the new outdoor chapel.
“This is very much in keeping with who we are as religious women and follows our conviction,” Sister Sara Dwyer, a member of the Adorers who gave an invocation at Sunday’s ceremony, told HuffPost.
Roughly 300 people from around Lancaster County and nearby communities turned up for the event, according to Lori Ann Neumann, a representative from Lancaster Against Pipelines.
Neumann said residents of Lancaster County have been protesting the planned pipeline for more than three years and approached the Adorers about constructing the chapel as part of efforts to block the project.
“There’s been no clear way of how to stop the pipeline,” Neumann told HuffPost on Monday. “But the Lancaster movement is large and growing, and with the nuns coming in to add their moral authority were hoping the word get out to more and more people.”
Williams Partners, the Oklahoma-based energy company behind the project, is planning an expansion to its Transco natural gas pipeline that will extend 183 miles of pipe into Pennsylvania. The pipeline currently runs 10,200 miles from Texas to New York. The $3 billion expansion, called Atlantic Sunrise, aims to increase the pipeline’s capacity by 1.7 million dekatherms per day, according to the company’s website.
Atlantic Sunrise would cross land owned by the Adorers, as well as that of other residents who have refused to sell their land to Williams. The company filed an emergency order last week to seize control of the Adorers’ land. But a U.S. district judge ruled against granting Williams immediate possession of the property, according to Lancaster Online.
A court hearing scheduled for July 17 will determine whether the company has the right to seize the land via eminent domain.
Sunday’s ceremony served as a symbolic action to delay construction of the pipeline.
“While the Adorers understand that the federal court order of eminent domain, once it goes into effect, can allow Transco to call for the removal of the ‘chapel’ from the easement, they believe that having this structure on their land, for however long, gives tangible witness to the sacredness of Earth,” the nuns wrote in a statement.
Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement obtained by CNN, the company said it respected the nuns’ right to protest as long as it didn’t interfere with the project.
“With the exception of the width of the construction right-of-way, this structure (the open-air chapel) can be placed anywhere else on the property without issue,” Williams said.
The Adorers say the pipeline goes against their land ethic, a theological statement approved by their congregation in 2005, and which treats the environment as sacred and promotes reverence for the Earth.
Neumann said if the judge rules in favor of eminent domain next week, residents are prepared to hold vigil at the chapel 24/7.
“Our only remaining option is to put our bodies on the line,” she said.