On December 2, 2016, Megan Holleran delivered the following testimony at the People's Hearing on FERC Abuses held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
I’m Megan Holleran. I’m from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m here today because last spring, as a result of decisions made by FERC, Williams Corporation caused devastating damage to my family’s land in New Milford, PA through an abuse of eminent domain power for the purpose of building the Constitution Pipeline, a 121-mile-long natural gas line running from Susquehanna County Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, New York.
In December 2014 FERC granted Williams a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, despite vocal opposition from landowners, businesses, and environmental advocates. The comments focused on the significant negative impact the project would have on the communities and areas it passes through as well as pointing out the lack of necessity for the project due to existing infrastructure and intended exportation of the natural gas. FERC determined these concerns to be insignificant, so Williams was granted the power of eminent domain to seize land for the Constitution Pipeline. Additionally, Williams was given possession of the condemned properties prior to compensating the landowners.
In March 2016, Williams had not yet obtained all of the permits needed to begin construction of the Constitution Pipeline and had no chance of meeting their December 2016 in-service deadline. Despite this, Williams requested a Partial Notice to Proceed which would allow non-mechanized tree felling in the Right of Way. My family and numerous other landowners submitted comments to FERC asking that the tree clearing wait at least until all the permits for the project had been obtained.
We own a small business, North Harford Maple, and use the forest on our land to produce maple syrup, sugar, and candy. Williams was asking for permission to cut down more than 300 mature maple trees, three acres of forest, in the middle of our production season, without our permission, without an appraisal of the forest, without compensating us, and without certainty that the reason for the destruction- the Constitution Pipeline- would ever be built. We asked FERC to deny their request and prevent the damage, at least until they had obtained all their permits.
In January 2016, FERC granted the Partial Notice to Proceed, in Pennsylvania. As a result, on March 1, despite our opposition and protest, Williams came to our property, escorted by US Marshalls with assault weapons. In three days they clear-cut a 300ft right of way through the forest behind my Aunt’s home, felling hundreds of ash, oak, and cherry trees and our maple trees. Despite only having possession of the Right of Way, Williams demanded an additional “safety buffer” to deter protestors. This denied us rights to another 150ft corridor on our property including our sap processing area and backyard.
Two weeks later, the December 2016 in-service date- the reason for the need to cut trees immediately- was extended by FERC to 2017. Two months later, the New York DEC denied Williams the 401 water quality certificate, the last permit they needed to begin construction.
Constitution Pipeline will never be built and this destruction will serve no purpose. Thanks to FERC our trees have already been cut. My home, my business, and my family have already been damaged. It can never be undone. FERC needs to be held accountable.
Photo credit: Tom Jefferson