Court issues temporary injunction against pipeline crossing sisters' land

Update, Nov. 9, 2017: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the emergency motion to stay the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's authorization of Williams Partners' Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. This allows construction to resume.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the Adorers of the Blood of Christ among those filing the emergency motion.

The U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Nov. 6 a temporary stop to construction of the fossil fuel pipeline being built, in part, on land owned by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

The order comes in response to an emergency motion for stay " pending a more "comprehensive environmental review" of the planned Atlantic Sunrise pipeline extension " filed in late October by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Allegheny Defense Project and Lancaster Against Pipelines.

"The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion," the court said.

While the emergency motion effects the sisters' property, they are not participating in the legal action.

In July, the sisters sued Williams, the company building the pipeline, claiming that having a gas pipeline on their land violates their religious freedom. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in September, which the Adorers are currently appealing.

The sisters and their supporters have also been engaged in more creative forms of protest. This summer, the sisters built an outdoor prayer chapel in the projected pathway of the pipeline and, last month, close to 30 people were arrested for physically blocking Williams workers from the Adorers' land.

Lancaster Against Pipelines continues to organize peaceful demonstrations at the construction site, which have included interfaith prayer services with local Quaker and Mennonite communities and the offering of bread to Williams workers. The day after the temporary construction halt was ordered, the group was urging its supporters to take photos if they saw any Williams workers on Adorer property and to call the police.

"We've learned not to trust Williams," they wrote in an email. "Already this morning, work crews have been spotted across Lancaster County, in violation of the order."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission first approved plans for the Atlantic Sunrise extension in February 2017 — a decision that was met with swift opposition from local landowners and environmental activists.

An estimated 32 landowners, including the Adorers, refused to sell their land to Williams, setting off a series of legal battles. In August, Williams successfully sued the Adorers for immediate access to their land.

"This vital project … will create a crucial connection between Pennsylvania and consuming markets all along the East Coast," Williams said in a statement sent to Global Sisters Report following the August ruling. "In the process, it will deliver economic growth, jobs and increased access to affordable, clean-burning energy."

The original plan had been to have the new pipeline completed in time for the upcoming winter season. Williams now plans to have the pipeline finished in July 2018.

[Dawn Araujo-Hawkins is a Global Sisters Report staff writer. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter @dawn_cherie]