Protesters resisting Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania feeling intimidated

Protesters resisting Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania feeling intimidated
A resistance camp in Pennsylvania called Camp White Pine is seeing signs of intimidation in its battle against the Mariner East 2 pipeline and fracking as a whole, as it looks to thwart two oil giants’ plans to finish the pipeline.

Camp White Pine (CWP), the group claiming to defend the land from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Sunoco Logistics, over the $2.5 billion 350-mile Mariner 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, have reportedly faced intimidation tactics.

Mariner 2 has been proposed to run through 27 acres of private land in a rural area of the county, owned by Ellen and Steven Gerhart, whose daughter, Elise Gerhart, was one of the architect’s of CWP, Truthout reported.

In an attempt to stop the pipeline’s construction, Gerhart’s daughter, Elise Gerhart, 30, along with other people resisting the pipeline, built tree houses, or “tree sits,” in three white pine trees that stand in the way of the path of the pipeline's construction on the Gerhart’s property.

That is the spot in which CWP has camped since February. People resisting the pipeline have reportedly been living in the trees 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since they were built, NPR reported.

However, numerous surveillance helicopters and drones have reportedly been seen flying over the camp and the Gerhart's property. In one incident, a helicopter reportedly flew so low that it shook a tree one of the CWP members was sitting in, Truthout reported.

Despite official complaints filed by CWP, which have included photographs and helicopter tail numbers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not yet acknowledged any wrongdoing in regards to the flyovers.

Mariner 2, while still under construction, is already responsible for spilling 202,000 gallons of drilling fluids during 90 events at 42 sites in Pennsylvania. The pipeline is being built as an extension of the already existing Sunoco-operated Mariner East pipeline, according to Fractracker Alliance, an environmentalist watchdog group.

Due to the reported problems with the pipeline, earlier this year in July, Pennsylvania Judge Bernard Labuskes from the Environmental Hearing Board ordered a temporary stop to the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) practices that were being used by Sunoco and ETP to construct Mariner 2.

Drilling resumed shortly after, and Sunoco agreed to adhere to a series of water-protection measures, which included stronger oversight by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Local reports and official data, however, have indicated that water issues that had previously reported as being affected by the drilling have continued in some locations, according to NPR.

As a result of the construction of Mariner 2, the Gerharts’ property has reportedly been invaded by police and tree cutting crews from Sunoco a total of three times, according to Truthout.

On March 29, 2016, the crews, along with police, reportedly entered the back of Gerhart's land without notice and proceeded to the site where the pipeline easement had been marked for construction.

READ MORE: Climate activist convicted in Montana pipeline protest

They entered the property so the crews could cut down the trees that were being inhabited by members of CWP to make way for Mariner 2. But Elise Gerhart, and other people resisting the pipeline, successfully stopped the trees from being cut down by not leaving their positions.

While this was happening, Elise Gerhart stated that Sunoco’s tree cutting crews mocked and threatened her, along with others who resisted the crew's efforts to cut down the trees.

Gerhart added that the police just stood by and let the threats go on, and even arrested two Pennsylvania residents who were present at the site to make sure safety and legal violations did not occur. Both people were charged with disorderly conduct and criminal contempt.

The Gerharts found out about Mariner 2 in 2015, and have reportedly taken numerous actions to stop the pipeline. They have joined both a class-action lawsuit and private civil suit, in order to protect their land from the drilling, Truthout reported.