Nov 14

Public Information & the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

One of the ugliest realities of new proposed pipelines for the Susquehanna Watershed is the threat of eminent domain.

When interstate pipelines receive certain permits from the Federal energy Regulatory Commission, they often have the power to – and history proves have in fact – taken private land for industrial use. The proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Project promises to be no exception.

The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, or the Central Penn Lines North and South, would create a shortcut between the existing Transco Leidy Line in Columbia County with the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline in Lancaster County.  It is a greenfield pipeline, meaning it would create a new Right-Of-Way (ROW).  If constructed, Atlantic Sunrise will be 178 miles long, with at least 2 new compressor stations in Susquehanna and Columbia Counties, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, federal agencies often won’t disclose lists of private citizens potentially affected by proposed pipeline projects. Disclosing impacted landowner lists is not only vital to informing local citizens about potential eminent domain threats, but to informing the general public about potential federal agency actions that affect community and environmental health, well-being, and safety.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper is working to ensure full transparency from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Transco as the application process moves forward. In particular, we use tools like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to advocate for transparent, scientifically-vetted, and accountable decisionmaking from federal agencies, all towards the goal of protecting community health and water quality in the Susquehanna.

More About FOIA

The Freedom of Information Act establishes a general philosophy of full agency disclosure. Congress enacted FOIA in 1966 to ensure the public’s right of access to information regarding the conduct of government affairs. The basic purpose of FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.As the Supreme Court has declared: “FOIA is often explained as a means for citizens to know what ‘their Government is up to.’” NARA v. Favish, 541 U.S. 157, 171 (2004) (quoting U.S. Dep’t of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749, 773 (1989). The Court elaborated that “[t]his phrase should not be dismissed as a convenient formalism.” Id. at 171-72. Rather, “[i]t defines a structural necessity in a real democracy.” Id. at 172. In enacting FOIA, Congress was “principally interested in opening administrative processes to the scrutiny of the press and public.” Renegotiation Bd. v. Bannercraft Clothing Co., 415 U.S. 1, 17 (1974).