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Group raises concerns over pipeline easements

Save Carbon County is trying to raise awareness to easements currently being offered to landowners along the proposed PennEast pipeline route.

Dr. Sue Ann Lewine and Roy Christman attended the county commissioners' meeting Thursday to talk about the recent land easement offers.Lewine said that the group is trying to bring people's attention to the easement offers and how one-sided they are, and noted a protest that the group held earlier today in front of the courthouse annex in Jim Thorpe.Events like the protest were also held along the route of the pipeline by various groups.Lewine urged landowners to read the easement offers carefully and ask an attorney's expert opinion before signing anything.Christman said that through discussions with the PennEast land agents, he and his wife, Linda, learned that by signing the easement, it would give permission for another pipeline to be installed at a later time without any additional compensation, as well as allow the company to come on landowners' properties without notice to do maintenance of the pipeline while landowners assume the liability."We're not signing," he said, noting that PennEast has indicated that if landowners don't sign, the offer may be lower next time.Christman said his easement offer was approximately $3,000 per acre, but the overall losses far outweigh the compensation the company is trying to provide.For example, he said in the offer is a large section on storing equipment on fields throughout the summer."That means those fields would not be able to be used this summer," he said, adding that the company said it would pay for damages to the fields."But the people digging the pipelines are not farmers," Christman said.Commissioners' Chairman Wayne Nothstein asked if PennEast would cover farmers' crop loss costs.Christman said yes, but that needs to be negotiated."They will cover it for one year full loss and a second year partially," he said, adding that experts say that crop reduction occurs for up to five years after earth disturbance of that magnitude.Lewine said landowners will also have the chance to ask questions about easement offers at a meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 18, at the Towamensing Fire Company. Experts will be on hand to provide landowners with options regarding the easements.Trash talkIn other matters, Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard is trying to help clean up county roadways.He said that he and Tom Connors, director of the animal shelter, are looking at the feasibility of starting a pilot program to help people sentenced to community service complete their hours by volunteering to clean up litter along roadways in various municipalities.Gerhard used a recent example along Route 534 in the Albrightsville area, where a resident complained about the trash to county and state officials.Pennsylvania Department of Transportation crews cleaned as far as they were allowed to, which is 16.5 feet from the centerline on each side of the road, but the trash extended farther onto other properties along the roads.Gerhard said that he and Connors will look into seeing if this is possible before setting up any dates this spring for cleanups.