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Nuns build open-air chapel to protest natural gas pipeline

A simple outdoor chapel like this one in California can cause problems for pipeline operators (LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock)

There is more than just one way to protest and delay a pipeline. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a group of Catholic nuns is fighting against a natural gas pipeline that would run beneath land they own in a unique way by setting up an open-air chapel for people to visit.

The action, hosted by grass-roots opposition group Lancaster Against Pipelines, is called "Stand With the Sisters" and is in support of a Catholic order of women in opposition to the pipeline. The land in questions is located in West Hempfield Township and stands in the path of the Atlantic Sunrise Project, a pipeline for natural gas being pursued by Williams Partners to extend the Transco pipeline system that already runs from Texas to New York. Even though the nuns have not wanted their land used for the pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the pipeline, pointing to eminent domain.

The nuns say that the pipeline project goes against their land ethic. In a visible symbol of protest, the nuns allowed Lancaster Against Pipelines to construct this outdoor chapel. They said in a statement they know the pipeline company might call for the chapel’s removal, but “believe that having this structure on their land, for however long, gives tangible witness to the sacredness of Earth.”

According to Lancaster Online, around 300 people showed up for the opening ceremony last weekend. A Williams Partners spokesperson referred to the chapel as a “blatant attempt to impede pipeline construction.”

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