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Group holding pipeline protest

Demonstrators to voice opposition to Mariner East 2 at Blair courthouse

A group of Blair County residents is slated to hold a public protest of a 300-plus-mile pipeline, which is now under construction in several local townships.

The Blair County Coalition for Public Safety will hand out pamphlets and speak anti-pipeline messages from noon to 2 p.m. today in front of the Blair County Courthouse in Hollidaysburg.

“We wanted a public space where we would get some visibility … to spread awareness and educate people,” said Bridgette Jackson of the coalition. “That’s the goal.”

Jackson’s group opposes construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will carry natural gas liquids from beyond Pennsylvania’s western border to a storage and distribution facility in Delaware County’s Marcus Hook area.

It will pass through Blair County’s Juniata, Allegheny, Blair, Frankstown and Woodbury townships. Construction in Blair County began in late spring.

Jackson said the coalition opposes “pipelines in general, specifically Sunoco, because they have the worst record.”

The Mariner East 2 is being constructed by Sunoco Pipeline LP, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, which played a role in the Dakota Access Pipeline that has drawn mass criticism, protests and national media attention.

In September, Reuters reported an analysis of government data that suggests Sunoco pipelines spill more crude oil than any of its competitors, with more than 200 leaks since 2010.

Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 pipeline has been transporting propane and ethane in the region since late 2014, and it has leaked multiple times — including an August leak in Allegheny Township, officials confirmed.

“They have a total disregard for public safety,” Jackson said.

Janice Kavanagh, another coalition member, said she hopes to share Sunoco’s record with Blair County residents. That’s part of the reason the courthouse was selected as a protest venue.

“We were hoping that people from Blair County could get there easily,” she said. “I think we are just being bamboozled here.”

The pipeline also will pass through Cambria and Huntingdon counties. In Huntingdon, dozens have spoken against construction at public meetings, and others have filed lawsuits and climbed trees in attempts to halt work.

There is a chance some Huntingdon County protestors will attend today’s protest, too, Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh said she worries greatly about the potential effects a leak could have on local lands and waterways.

Some coalition members also have ties to Blair County Indivisible, a progressive protest group that has called for transparency from local politicians.

Kavanagh promised today’s protests will be peaceful.

“I am very pro-Pennsylvania and our community,” she said. “We are not going to stir up any controversy.”

Earlier this month, many municipal leaders said opposition to the Mariner East 2 has been minimal in Blair County, and some even touted economic benefits the infrastructure could bring to the area.

However, Jackson said those people have been mislead, and her group aims to offer a different viewpoint.

“They’re under the guise that it is going to create jobs and create opportunity,” she said. “They might not be opposed to it because they just might not be educated on it.”

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