A Different Kind of Farm Visit
Saturday afternoon I spent a few hours at the Bloserville (Cumberland County) farm of Ralph and Doris Blume, and it was an afternoon that reinforced my decision to run for office. The Blumes have been fighting the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which now runs through their backyard, for years. I spoke with the Blumes, and a couple friends (including a neighbor also fighting the pipeline and a professor at Dickinson who's been helping them) about what they have experienced and how the work of Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partner has affected their land, their water, and their livelihoods.
I heard of a lot of disturbing testimony on Saturday, and it's been tough for me to process and sort out my thoughts.
What is clear is that our government's role in protecting its citizens has totally failed in this case. Not just the Blumes, but all citizens who have had their land taken by an inappropriate assertion of eminent domain, as well as everyone living in the "blast zone" of this new pipeline. There are legitimate safety concerns, due to poor construction, cheap materials, and using the pipeline to transport gas at very high pressure. Additionally, the gas is odorless, and as of yet there have been no efforts to create or maintain a monitoring system that would alert residents nearby of a leak or other problems with the pipe.
What is also very clear is that the local elected officials have left the Blumes, and others feeling totally ignored and left behind. Most elected officials have not made the time to meet with them when they initially brought up their concerns. I left the farm feeling hopeful that I might be able to make a difference when I'm elected, but also sad, angry, and frustrated.
Sad because the Blumes should be enjoying their retirement, tending their land and their gun shop, not worried about the water coming out of the faucet or the threat of volatile gas leak in their backyard.
Angry because once the landscape has been altered like this, it is impossible to repair. Angry because these people, their farm tucked against a mountain ridge, off the beaten road, deserve just as much a voice as a corporate CEO with a big checkbook. Angry because our elected officials seem so willing to throw away our lives and our land in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Frustrated because no matter what issue it is, it seems like our elected officials are ignoring the demands and needs of regular people -- e.g., safe staffing ratios at our hospitals and regulatory demands on small farmers -- and instead focusing on what is most profitable for massive corporations. Even more mindboggling is the fact that Sunoco/ETP left the Blume's fields and wetlands in way worse condition when they finished their work -- without fair recourse. Yet farmers and landowners who want to make changes in their wetland management must attain permits and go through costly procedures to do it correctly. It isn't right.
As a candidate, there is not much more I can do besides listen, and share what I have learned, and make promises that I hope I can keep when I am elected. Promises are made out of air, and politicians' promises are created out of the thinnest air. But I pledge to be different. I won't sit back and ignore the issues, looking only for photo-ops. I won't be a puppet for party leadership. I will not be swayed by oil and gas money or lobbyists. I will stand with workers, not corporations. And I will represent the people of this district honestly, fairly, and transparently.