Nuns Build Open-Air Chapel In Pennsylvania To Protest Pipeline Development

The sisters oppose the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline because it is “a violation of their faith" and a burden to the environment.


Opposition to pipeline development doesn’t just occur in North Dakota. In Pennsylvania, a group of Catholic nuns has set up an open-air chapel in protest of a natural gas pipeline. CNN reports that the sisters previously denied an easement to Williams Partners, the Oklahoma-based company planning to build the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled the company has the right to construct, maintain and operate it on the private land via eminent domain. As a result, the sisters set up an open-air chapel in the direct path of the pipeline’s route as a form of protest. They are presently being supported by the grassroots opposition group Lancaster Against Pipelines.

Last Sunday, the group hosted a ceremony called “Stand With the Sisters” to rally support for the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a Catholic order of women who oppose the pipeline. Said Mark Clatterbuck of the Lancaster Against Pipelines group: “It’s not about money, it’s about principle. And the nuns have a land ethic that says this Earth is a sanctuary and we regard it as sacred, and we’re going to work to protect it.”

WGAL reports that the Thursday prior, proponents of the pipeline filed an emergency order to expedite the seizure of the nuns’ land. A court hearing is presently scheduled for July 17. Because eminent domain has not yet gone into effect, the sisters and Lancaster Against Pipelines are doing what they can to stall the construction. Williams Partners said in a statement that it respects the right to protest peacefully. It wrote: “With the exception of the width of the construction right-of-way, this structure (the open-air chapel) can be placed anywhere else on the property without issue.”


The sisters oppose the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline because it is “a violation of their faith,” according to protester Ann Neumann. For several days last week, the nuns worked together to construct a “bare-bones” outdoor structure, complete with benches in front of a makeshift altar. Reportedly, it is open to the public and individuals of all faiths are welcome.

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will traverse 183 miles across Pennsylvania and will extend the Transco pipeline system which presently runs 10,200 miles from Texas to New York. Because $3 billion has been invested in the expansion, Williams has no intention of halting the pipeline’s construction which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this year. The company said in a statement: “Once complete, it will create a crucial connection between Pennsylvania and consuming markets all along the East Coast, delivering enough natural gas to fuel more than 7 million homes. In the process, it will deliver economic growth, jobs and increased access to affordable, clean-burning energy.”

Nonetheless, many activists are doing what they can to support the Catholic nuns’ plight to protect the environment and counter that which goes against their beliefs.

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