Months after massive pipeline protests in North Dakota, officials there are now helping their counterparts in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in preparation for what many expect could be a similar showdown.
Nearly a dozen North Dakota state and local officials spoke to more than 40 first responders from Lancaster Country in a video teleconference Thursday at the request of Lancaster County Republican State Senator Scott Martin.
“Go big. Go fast. These things can spin out of control before you have a chance to even realize where you’re at,” Cody Schulz, chair of the Morton County board of commissioners, shared in the teleconference. “So if this happens to you it’s very resource intensive top to bottom.”
The purpose of the video teleconference was to ensure Lancaster County is prepared to handle expected protests for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, Martin said as LancasterOnline reports.
“We need to discuss a proactive approach to this issue so any potential protests can take place in a way that will not impact the public safety or the financial health of local communities,” Martin said previously in a press release.
The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, which is scheduled to be buried through 37 miles of western and southern Lancaster County, is expected to begin later this year. Opponents of the project said the project threatens property owner rights, the environment and indigenous sites.
The pipeline's builders at Williams Partners LP said there had been extensive route changes to address these concerns and that state and federal regulators had both signed off on the project.
Local people have vowed to prevent its completion through civil disobedience and a occupation protest at the site. It’s a similar method that Native American protesters and their supporters used in confronting the Dakota Access Pipeline project near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota last year, which featured standoffs, arrests and police violence.
"Standing Rock showed communities all over the country that this is what it could look like ... Grassroots action can make a difference," Mark Clatterbuck, an activist with Lancaster Against Pipelines, told PennLive.
Hundreds had signed pledges to protect their homes, farms and properties once pipeline construction begins, some had also taken "non-violent mass-action" trainings, Clatterbuck said.
Outside the closed-door conference Thursday, demonstrators with Lancaster Against Pipelines organized a rally showing their disdain for not being invited to take part. They said they are the ones who will be engaged in the protest and are concerned law enforcement could take things too far.
“How can you do this when you haven’t even talked to us first?” Tim Spiese, a Martic Township resident and leader in the Lancaster Against Pipelines group, said.
“This is not a Standing Rock-type protest. We want this to be a community grassroots-based protest,” Spiese said. “Peaceful, quiet protests is the only thing that has ever worked.”