PENNSYLVANIA (CBS) — A group of Pennsylvania nuns will be in federal appeals court Friday, arguing they should be able to take a company to trial over a pipeline project in Lancaster.
The Adorers of the Blood of Christ nuns in Lancaster say Williams Partners unlawfully built a pipeline on their property.
“They feel strongly that God calls them to protect the earth,” said their attorney, Dwight Yoder.
He says the nuns tried to file an injunction to stop the construction, but the Oklahoma-based company broke ground before it could be heard.
“They condemned the sister’s property in federal court, and basically forced them to use their own land in a way that’s contrary to religious beliefs,” Yoder explained.
Which, Yoder says, are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“We think there are some real issues here with what has transpired,” he said.
A Federal judge dismissed the case in September, saying the court didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter.
A spokesman for Williams says the company disagrees with the move to appeal, and contends the pipeline helps people get natural gas at a lower cost.
The full statement from Williams Partners can be read below:
“While we respect the Adorers’ right to express their beliefs, we disagree with the position they have taken with regard to this important infrastructure project. Access to inexpensive, domestic natural gas is a huge benefit to all people, especially the economically disadvantaged. Sufficient access to affordable natural gas supplies keeps our homes warm and energy costs low, in addition to helping America lead the world in combatting climate change.
With respect to the Adorers’ federal court appeal, we expect the same judicial outcome which occurred last fall when the lower court considered these same arguments and ruled that Transco’s possession of the right of way on the Adorers’ land would not in any way affected their ability to practice their faith. On Sept. 28, 2017, the U.S. District Court issued a well-reasoned decision to dismiss the Adorer’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act action against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Transco, writing “…they (the Adorers) have not presented one piece of evidence that demonstrates how their religious beliefs will be abridged in any way. Clearly, the harm alleged by Transco outweighs this harm alleged by the Adorers.”
Overall construction on the Atlantic Sunrise project is more than 20 percent complete, and pipe installation is already complete on the 1.02 acre tract of total permanently affected acreage owned by the Adorers. The Adorers still retain ownership of the property, which is a cornfield tended to by a tenant farmer. Use of the property will not change; the property can continue to be farmed over the buried pipeline. Once the easement is restored, there will be very little evidence that a pipeline is present.”