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Missing Links in Lancaster

by Berry Friesen (February 17, 2017)

Imperialism is driving the agenda in my little part of the world (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), though it’s rarely recognized.

The most prominent example is the proposed 42 inch natural gas pipeline across the western side of the County. Williams Partners, a company from Oklahoma, has received authority from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to seize a 125-foot right-of-way across farmlands and forests to build it. More than 500 local people have pledged to nonviolently resist construction activity, thereby risking arrest.

The Lancaster County portion of the proposed pipeline is part of a $3 billion, 198-mile project called “Atlantic Sunrise.”  As reported by the local newspaper, LNP, “It would carry gas fracked from wells in the Marcellus Shale region of northeastern Pennsylvania to markets along the Eastern Seaboard and for export overseas.”

Currently there is a glut of natural gas in the US domestic market and the price is too low to sell profitably substantial amounts of fracked gas.  Thus, many of the wells in Pennsylvania have been capped.  The caps would be removed with the completion of Atlantic Sunrise project; gas then could be moved to liquefaction and purification facilities and readied for export across the oceans in specially built tanker ships.

So the export potential of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the heart of the pipeline initiative.

Problem is, LNG is more expensive than natural gas in its gaseous state.  Is there demand for exported LNG sourced from Pennsylvania?  Within each local market around the world, that depends on the available supply of less expensive, pipeline gas.

For many years, Europe has had an ample supply of pipeline gas from Russia.  That changed in early 2014 when the US-led empire—acting in concert with neo-Nazis from Ukraine and some well-intentioned reformers as well—toppled the elected government, threw the country in chaos, triggered Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and imposed retaliatory sanctions on Russia.

With the arrival of these orchestrated troubles, Europe no longer has a reliable supply of pipeline gas. Thus, it has become a potential market for Pennsylvania-sourced LNG. This is why a pipeline will be built across our fields, woodlands and streams here in Lancaster County; this is why private land is about to be seized for private profit.

Next time you hear a news report about the brutal civil war going on in Ukraine, about the NATO tanks and troops massing along the border of Russia, about the terrible things President Putin has done, about how Russia interfered with our recent presidential election, think about the capped natural gas wells in Pennsylvania. Many of those “Russia troubles” are designed and manufactured to yield big profits for natural gas companies here in the US.  *

Obviously, energy company lobbyists and the legislators on their payrolls don’t want the story told this way.  It's just not very persuasive. So they talk instead about the abundant supply of clean natural gas in Pennsylvania’s shale deposits, the wonderful new technology to extract the gas and the possibility of new jobs for local residents.  “It’s simply business,” they tell us, “and environmentally green too.”

A second example of imperialism’s impact on our lives is the war in Syria, now entering its seventh year.  It’s been a horrible conflict, claiming the lives of around 500,000 people and creating millions of refugees.

Lancaster has been very welcoming of refugees.  A couple of weeks ago, over 1,500 people rallied in our downtown square to protest President Trump’s order closing down travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria.  Curiously, not a word was spoken at that rally about why so many people have become refugees.

US imperialism has driven the war in Syria, beginning with a 2007 decision of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel to take down the government and replace President Bashar al-Assad with someone who would not support Iran and not support Hezbollah’s protection of Lebanon, but would toady to Israel.

President Obama put the plan in motion in 2009.  The multi-pronged strategy included an extensive propaganda campaign aimed at the Syrian people, direct funding of opposition groups inside Syria, and the preparation of a mercenary army to invade Syria.  By March 2011, the context in Syria was ready for the regime change operation to move into the open.  Street demonstrations were salted with armed provocateurs who fired upon and killed law enforcement personnel.   Soon after, foreign mercenaries began pouring across Syria’s borders.  (See here for a thumbnail history.)

The horror in Syria reflects what happens to countries that stand up to the empire and chart their own paths.  Iraq under Saddam Hussein tried that and was destroyed; Libya under Muammar Qaddafi tried that and was destroyed.  Syria under Bashar al-Assad tried that and has nearly been destroyed.

Private profit also was a contributing factor.  In 2009, shortly before President Obama put the regime change plan in motion, Assad approved a plan to build a natural gas pipeline from Iran’s gas fields through eastern Syria and into Lebanon for the European market. The war in Syria has prevented that plan from going forward.

My larger point is this:  US-led imperialism is driving big changes in our lives, such as the pipelines crossing across our lands and the refugees moving into our towns.  Part of responding effectively to these changes is to recognize and name this cause.

No, this is not Donald Trump’s fault.  This is what America has become over the decades, no matter whether a Republican or a Democrat was in the White House.  It orchestrates war and violence to maintain US hegemony, destroy competition and clear the field for the favored elite.

Rarely does anyone speak of this publicly.  Silence prevails notwithstanding political ideology, religion, race/ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  

As we welcome refugees, as we resist the seizure of private land for private profits, let’s be honest and courageous enough to break the silence and identify what’s fueling this runaway train we’re riding.  That way, we just may come up with a way to stop it.
*  For my take on the alleged Russian interference in our election, see here.  For reliable coverage of allegations against Russia, follow and  For perspective on the resignation of National Security Director Flynn, see Sam Husseini’s “The Left Needs to Assess the Implications of the Flynn Scandal” and Philip Giraldi's "More About Russia and Less About Flynn?".