HARRISBURG – September 25, 2018 – There is an ongoing and organized effort in Harrisburg to marginalize and villainize any organizations who raises safety concerns or opposition to the growing network of natural gas pipelines crisscrossing Pennsylvania, state Senator Andy Dinniman said today.

Dinniman’s comments came following Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on the “Foreign Influence on Natural Gas Development in Pennsylvania.

The hearing included testimony exclusively from Marcellus Shale supporters who attempted to paint criticism or opposition to pipeline safety and the natural gas industry as hurting America and helping Chinese and Russian interests.  

“This hearing was about as one-sided as they come. And I simply cannot sit by as industry insiders try to imply that my constituents’ very real and very serious concerns regarding pipeline environmental and public safety are being driven by Russia or China,” Dinniman, who serves on the committee, said. “Organizations such as the Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper, PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club that were criticized protect and preserve our environment and do not deserve such baseless attacks.”

“It’s both sad and infuriating at the same time,” Dinniman said.  “My constituents have a right to speak their minds and they have a right to be heard regarding their concerns about pipeline safety. They’re hardworking Americans who pay taxes, value their property rights, and vote. They’ve been let down again and again by our state and federal government but continue to try to work through the system for change. The fact that natural gas industry pundits seem to be trying to stifle their voices, pervert their efforts, and imply that they’re helping foreign governments is offensive.”

“Frankly, that assertion is ludicrous and its downright insulting. The people who are leading the opposition to the Mariner East pipeline project in Chester County and the surrounding region are hardworking parents and grandparents who are rightfully concerned about the health, safety, and well-being or their children and families,” Dinniman added. “They’re worried because the project has been characterized by a growing laundry list of safety problems including sinkholes, damage to local residential wells, and an utter lack of transparency regarding proper oversight. They’re alarmed because they know what a pipeline rupture in a high-consequence area means. And they’re frightened because we just saw what a pipeline explosion can do earlier this month in Beaver County.”

Dinniman also pointed to Senate Bill 652, that was recently passed by the Senate, which imposes harsh, felony-level punishments for pipeline protests.

“Yes, our critical infrastructure needs to be safe and secure, but this isn’t the way to do it,” Dinniman said. “Now, we want to throw people in jail for up to a year for peaceful protests or ‘trespassing’ on an easement that may be in their own backyard?”

Dinniman noted that, “It is important for the Marcellus Shale Industry and the Pennsylvania Legislature to understand that Pennsylvanians have always been free and independent thinkers. Speaking your mind and standing up for your rights makes you a patriotic American, not a foreign collaborator. After all, Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states, ‘The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.’”