Dozens from across PA attend press conference and rally in defense of grandmother, landowner, and retired special ed teacher Ellen Gerhart, 63, who has been targeted by Sunoco with contempt of court claims for monitoring pipeline construction on her own land
Huntingdon, PA: This morning, dozens of residents from across Pennsylvania converged at the Huntingdon County Courthouse for a press conference and rally in support of Ellen Gerhart. This afternoon, Gerhart was scheduled for a court hearing, after attorneys for Texas-based Sunoco claimed Gerhart violated a court-ordered injunction while monitoring construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline on her land. If convicted, Gerhart could be sent to jail for up to six months without trial and be forced to pay restitution to the company. Just before the scheduled hearing, County Judge George Zanic agreed to continue the case until July 6, placing Gerhart on a $25,000 unsecured bond.
This legal bullying adds insult to injury for the Gerhart family, who already have had their land seized and destroyed via eminent domain to enable Sunoco to build the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline through their property. The Gerharts have never given Sunoco permission to enter their property, and have been opposing the Mariner East project for over three years.
At 11am this morning, the Gerharts hosted a press conference in front of the Huntingdon County Courthouse.
“Our particular battle with Sunoco began more than three years ago, but there are others who have been fighting against fracking and pipelines for much longer. Clean water and people’s health and safety are worth the time and energy, our bodies are about 70% water. That 70% does not include bentonite clay or any “proprietary” chemicals that fracking and pipeline companies choose to use.” said Ellen Gerhart. “We have no choice but to take a stand and defend what our government officials are unwilling to protect. Sunoco made a serious miscalculation when it decided to pick on the citizens of Pennsylvania and other ‘pipeline’ states. The right to clean water is non-negotiable.”
Sunoco, a fully owned subsidiary of the controversial pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, has wreaked environmental havoc across Pennsylvania while constructing the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Since construction began, there have been an astounding 106 documented spills, with more occurring each week. At the press conference, Pennsylvania residents impacted by these spills spoke out in support of the Gerharts’ attempts to protect their water, including US Navy Veteran Ralph Blume and US Marine Veteran David Anspach.
“They took away my water and my land, they tread on our rights,” said Ralph Blume. “I have been fighting this and will continue. I found out through this fight that nobody wants to do anything about it. Our government is not helping up they ignore us. I spent 4 years serving this country, came home to live my life, and then they take my property.”
Currently, the Gerharts are involved in numerous lawsuits over the project, including contesting the use of eminent domain for Mariner East 2, a pipeline with the primary purpose of shipping ethane, propane, and butane to Marcus Hook to be exported to plastics manufacturer Ineos in Norway.
Additionally, the Gerharts have levied a federal civil rights lawsuit against Energy Transfer Partners, private security contractor TigerSwan, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Huntingdon County Sheriff Department, and a creator of a faux-grassroots facebook page called PA Progress over continuous harassment the family has faced since deciding to oppose the pipeline project.