State College Borough Gov Denies Pipeline Permit: Fight Isn’t Over

by: Posted on: May 07, 2013

By Braden Crooks, Groundswell

On Monday April 1st, the State College Borough Council held an information meeting about the dangerous Penn State Pipeline –a potential high pressure, 12″ pipeline carrying fracked natural gas through the center of dense State College, PA. Representatives from Columbia Gas and Penn State were present. So was the community.

The Council Chamber was full to capacity, and overflow seating in the lobby of the Borough Building was standing room only. The opposition to the Pipeline among the community was unanimous, with dozens of citizens speaking out in the community voices section of the meeting, and signs held high in support of their Community Environmental Bill of Rights. The powerful showing by the people of State College was impressive, and as the meeting, which began at 7:30pm, stretched well past midnight, the Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the pipeline and calling for negotiations between the town and university.

As a result, the Town Manager did not approve a permit that would allow construction to begin this month, and admitted there is a potential for a law suit against the borough stemming from the decision. The solidarity between the people of State College and their elected local government has been strengthened by the decision, but it is only the first step in what will likely be a long process to stop the pipeline.

A back-room culture of decision-making persists at the top of Penn State University. The lack of transparency, defensiveness, and callous placement of the average person in harm’s way is a continuation of the toxic legacy of Penn State’s broken leadership. The Penn State Pipeline Scandal could be a chance to turn the page into a new era of openness and equity, as the community demands their inclusion in the decision-making process, and offers to help Penn State find a sustainable solution.

More importantly, the Community Environmental Bill of Rights bans fossil fuel infrastructure like pipelines and enshrines community rights over corporations, but has yet to be applied in this situation. If the Bill of Rights is invoked, it may be the first time a community has fought fossil fuel infrastructure on the basis that it violates their rights and not a more trivial issue like zoning or regulations. This fight is more than a question of what decision will be made about the pipeline between Penn State and Columbia Gas, it is an issue of who has say over what happens in the borough: the corporations, or the community who lives there.

The citizens have spoken up about their Community Bill of Rights, which was passed in 2011 by a 72% super-majority. If the responsibility of the borough government is to represent the people, then they must enforce their charter as a matter of law. The issue is far from over. A long fight likely lies ahead to stop the Penn State Pipeline, and the town charter’s ban on pipeline infrastructure that carries non-renewable sources of energy is the best chance to stop the pipeline. Whatever happens, this moment exposes the systemic issues that keep communities from having a say over their energy future, and the effects of the Penn State Pipeline Scandal will ripple into the future.

Copyright, Groundswell. Reprinted with permission.


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