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December 22, 2014
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Looking back in Pennsylvania in 2012

Transition Towns skill sharing event: Katie Baxter demonstrates how to make wooden spoons using a cutting wheel.


PENNSYLVANIA — One of the major stories of the year was that the Pike County Commissioners and a local group called “Save Cummins Hill” protested a plan by the Tennessee Pipeline Company to cut through environmentally sensitive land around Cummins Hill Road to lay a 7.1-mile stretch of pipeline as part of the company’s 300 line called the Northeast Upgrade Project (NEUP). The new line will carry gas produced from the Marcellus Shale gas fields in central Pennsylvania to markets in New Jersey and New York.

The protestors are claiming that the National Park Service is blocking the company from widening its current right of way through the Delaware Water Gap National and Recreational Area.
Several elected officials have written the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to open new hearings on other alternative routes. FERC has not so far responded to the requests.

In another energy story, the National Park Service (NPS) granted permission for two electric companies—PPL Utilities Company and the Public Service Electric & and Gas Company—to build large electric towers to carry electricity and cut through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area (DWGNRA), even though it has denied the same permit to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP)

“The two projects are very different,” said Jane Ahern of the NPS. “The two utilities will take significant steps to avoid and minimize adverse impacts on federal land and will contribute at least $56 million to a mitigation fund to purchase and preserve land for public use.”

But environmental groups are suing to stop the project.
Also in 2012, the group Transition Honesdale came forward with several projects designed to enhance sustainable living in the borough. One project was a large community garden at the Ellen Memorial Health Facility. The garden was open to the clients of the facility as well as members of the local community.

Another project was to conduct skill-share workshops where people could train others in skills like how to build a dry-stone wall, how to can vegetables and how to improve woodworking skills. The group also publishes a newsletter explaining how people can help others in developing environmental projects.

The Cooperage was resurrected in 2012. The old building on Main Street in Honesdale, where barrels were once manufactured in the old days, has been renovated and made into a community center for local individuals and groups. Musical events and various workshops are held there every weekend as well as a farmers’ market on every Saturday, where local farmers bring their products to market.

In July, a Pennsylvania court sustained four counts in the suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania challenging the constitutionality of Act 13, a law that would supersede local municipalities’ abilities to zone oil and gas drilling operations. The court upheld counts charging that the act is unconstitutional because it is an improper exercise of police power; that, by allowing for incompatible uses in certain zones it is in derogation of municipalities’ comprehensive zoning plans, and does not allow them to create new or follow existing comprehensive plans; that it is in violation of the state Municipal Planning Code; and that it delegates authority to the Department of Environmental Preservation without definitive standards or authorizing language.

The case was appealed, but in August, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that municipalities are not required to obey Act 13 while the Robinson Township decision is appealed to the state supreme court. A final ruling has not yet been issued.

After a year and a half of investigation by a Pike County Grand Jury, Donald and Eleanor “Nelia” Wall were exonerated of any criminal activity. However, Donald was removed as zoning officer and Nelia, a township supervisor, had to resign from the board. Stating that the decision did not come from a plea-bargaining offer, they did not admit to any wrongdoing. Part of the agreement called for the couple to pay $7,500 to Shohola Township as “restitution.”