Bucks County Herald

Personal stories are latest tool in fight against PennEast Pipeline

JOHN SIEVERS

There are many ways opponents of the PennEast Pipeline have tried to stop it from being built.

There have been meetings, protests, resolutions, lawsuits and other measures to bolster claims that the pipeline is not needed. People not in the crosshairs of the pipeline and those who are have been making their voices heard.

In most of those cases, the tactical playbook has been the same.

Homeowners Against Land Taking (HALT) recently decided to try something different by introducing the human element to the fight.

“The silver lining to the dark cloud that’s PennEast is the joy of meeting and finding a common cause with so many people fighting this pipeline,” said Michael Heffler of HALT.

Kevin Bott, an educator who moved to West Amwell Township, N.J., three months ago, offered to lead a “story-telling” workshop.

“It’s hard to argue with a human being’s personal experience,” he said. The “public narrative story of self” inspires a “call to action,” Bott said.

“It’s a tool you can use.”

Bott held the workshop several weeks back and sparked, through a number of coincidences, a seven- minute film clip that was privately screened at the June 28 HALT meeting at Prallsville Mills in Stockton, N.J.

The clip, taken from about two hours of interview footage by Lambertville, N.J., resident Bill Jersey, 90, was edited down to seven minutes by two Los Angeles friends of the family of HALT member Vince DiBianca. “The Fury and Passion of Homeowners Fighting To Stop The PennEast Pipeline” is the name of the preliminary clip that Nathan Eswine, 22, and Alex Marshall, 28, edited.

The citizen’s group hopes the clip will help get across the personal story of landowners affected by the proposed pipeline and the reasons why they are fighting it.

“Land taking for corporate gain is un-American,” Jacqueline Evans said in the clip.

“Our government has a duty to protect people from corporations that abuse their money and power,” Angela Karas of Raritan Township, N.J., said.

The film clip also cited quotes from Bono; “The power of the people is stronger than the people in power,” and Helen Keller; “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much,” as further inspiration.

DiBianca said the group hopes to use the video clip to tell the group’s story and raise awareness.

Bott said that the “public narrative” approach is not new and has its origins more than 40 years ago, and that every person’s story is important.

After the film clip, Bott invited attendees to break off into pairs and share a personal story with each other as had been done several weeks earlier.

Heffler’s announcement that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Agency “administratively closed.”

PennEast’s water permit application earlier that day at the top of the meeting drew a short burst of enthusiastic applause from the few dozen residents in attendance.

The HALT group holds its monthly meetings at the Grist Mill building at Prallsville Mills in Stockton, N.J.

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