Community safety is a worthy topic of conversation for any community. Every community member has a vested interest in ensuring that their communities are safe places to live. Unfortunately, with regard to some of the ongoing discussion around the Mariner East project in Southeast Pennsylvania, the conversation has become dishonest.
Much has been discussed about concerns around the Mariner East project in Southeast Pennsylvania. While concerns about community safety are always a fair discussion, much of the activity in the name of public safety around this project could be categorized more as fearmongering than concern in recent months by some activists.
Regular opponents of Mariner East and other pipeline projects might say that public safety is their number one concern; however safety is the message they’ve discovered appeals more with the public than their real motivations. Those motivations are twofold: First, a “Keep It in the Ground” type of anti-development environmentalism; and second, a Not In My Backyard, or “NIMBY” perspective of not allowing development near one’s home. Sadly, neither of these two movements acknowledge the reality of Pennsylvania – or our nation’s – energy needs.
Case in point, Eric Friedman. Friedman has been a regular critic of the Mariner East project. He likes to tell people that his concerns stem from being the president of the Andover Homeowners Association. He is also involved with the group Del-Chesco United for Public Safety, a known pipeline opposition group. He has also served on the board of the Pipeline Safety Council, a group that was central to an investigation of misuse of federal funds through the Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) program that was found to be funding environmental causes, like the Pipeline Safety Council, in violation of the program’s intent.
This week, Friedman is making news because of his opposition to a decision made by Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC). The PUC denied Friedman access to sensitive documents related to Mariner East because, as StateImpact reported, the documents “contain confidential security information, whose disclosure could jeopardize public safety.”
In effect, the PUC is trying to prevent the release of documents that could jeopardize public safety. The documents at the center of the controversy are risk assessments, information that could be used by bad actors to threaten the security and safety of residents in Southeast Pennsylvania if made public. In this case, the PUC is arguing that security is a justifiable reason to withhold the documents and just recently made this argument to the Commonwealth Court in their appeal.
Friedman’s actions here have one goal – to shut down a legally permitted pipeline. And he doesn’t care if he harms the safety and security of the communities of Southeast Pennsylvania to do it. At this point, he just wants to get his way no matter the cost.
Spurring security concerns in the name of community safety seems odd, but this is undoubtedly what Friedman’s advocacy has caused. Everyone has a right to freedom of speech, but it is highly questionable when a group or individuals are threatening the community’s security in the name of community safety. What would explain this dilemma better is to just call this activism what it really is – NIMBYism or radical environmentalism.