I had the privilege of spending a couple days in New Milford, Pennsylvania on the Holleran-Zeffer property - home to North Harford Maple, a family owned business, owned by the Holleran-Zeffer family, that produces maple products including syrup and maple sugar. On the days that I was there, sap was running and they were making syrup. I was there to help protect the trees.
New Milford is in Susquehanna County, northeastern Pennsylvania. It is heavily fracked and there are a number of wells near the sugar bush, which is a stand of maple trees used for making syrup. On March 17th of 2015, a federal judge condemned a 150 foot wide swath of land across the property via eminent domain so that Cabot Oil & Gas and Williams Partners, LLC could build the Constitution Pipeline. This swath is home to most of the trees tapped by North Harford Maple.
Sap runs when nighttime temperatures are below freezing and daytime temperatures are above freezing. This usually happens between February and April. A tree has to be, at a minimum, twelve inches in diameter before it can be safely tapped; a tree this large is usually 40 to 50 years old.
FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, gave permission for Williams to begin clearing trees but stipulated that it had to be done by March 31 to protect migratory birds and bats. This coincides with prime syrup making season. If the trees are cut, North Harford Maple will not be able to survive.
This whole process is problematic.
The idea that a private company can take land via eminent domain so it can make a profit while, at the same time, running roughshod over a landowner, ruining their business, and cutting productive trees during the prime season seems to run counter to our Constitution, which states that private property will only be taken for public use and, even then, only after just compensation (5th Amendment). The Holleran-Zeffer family has received no compensation, yet chainsaws are at the ready and it's unlikely that any public use of the right of way will ever happen - the right of way is for the use of Williams Partners.
The Constitution Pipeline hasn't even been approved yet - it's been awaiting permitting from the State of New York for over 2 years. Therefore, the cutting of the trees seems a bit premature, not to mention the irreparable harm such action will cause.
Worst of all, the judge recently ordered the Holleran-Zeffer family not to get closer than 300 feet to the cut zone or face an $11,000 fine for contempt of court. The family's home is just outside that zone so, effectively, they are not even permitted to be in their own backyard.
I spoke with Megan Holleran. She asked us to contact our local representatives to complain about this taking. She asked us to contact Governor Wolf and Attorney General Kane. She also asked us to contact Governor Cuomo of New York. Ask them to halt the madness, stop the Constitution Pipeline, honor and protect the property rights of local people. Today it is the Holleran-Zeffers; tomorrow, it might be you...
-- Michael Bagdes-Canning