Death of Trees by a Thousand Cuts, by Dave Walczak

Megan Holleran, far left, with family members and allies; photo by Dave Walczak

Land, livelihoods and trees are not sacred within our system of questionable laws concerning the use of eminent domain and gas pipelines. The only way eminent domain might be “justifiably” applied along the proposed Constitution pipeline in northeast Pennsylvania is to assert that trees and people are commodities for corporate profit, no matter who gets in the way.

That is, unless citizens stand up and stop it.

With my video partner Bob Nilsson, I’ve witnessed the misuse of eminent domain from a maple tree farm (sugar bush) in New Milford, Pennsylvania. We have been documenting the ongoing efforts by Megan Holleran and her family, with scores of allies, to save their maple trees from being cut down by the Constitution Pipeline Company to make way for an interstate pipeline project. The proposed pipeline route starts in Pennsylvania near the Holleran/Zeffer property and is supposed to run through New York, but it has not been approved for New York.

It may seem a complex issue, but it’s actually a simple story of abusive powers.

At the federal courthouse in Scranton on February 19, 2016, the owners of this property were ordered to appear to answer charges of blocking tree cutting ordered by eminent domain. The federal judge was clear that he would find the Hollerans or anyone else on their property in contempt if they try to prevent tree cutting in the future.

Megan Holleran, the 29-year-old family spokesperson, who grew up on the property, as did her mother, clarified the next day that guests would still be able to visit the property if they abided by the court ruling on what distance they had to stay from the pipeline right of way.

On Feb 10 there had been a standoff when chainsaw crews assembled along the road and tried to gain access to the property to begin cutting. They were denied access, and the pipeline representatives called state police to intervene. State police officers arrived, listened to each side and then told the workers that they would not intervene that day; the pipeline company would have to get a court order for future entry to the property. The workers left.

On Feb 12 the Constitution Pipeline Company filed a motion declaring that the defendants have continuously and deliberately prevented the tree felling that is required to be finished by March 31, to comply with an environmental deadline. But Megan Holleran and her family have never given their consent to cut their trees, nor have they received any compensation for the condemnation of the part of their property that accounts for 80 percent of their maple syrup production.

After the court proceedings, the Holleran family said it would abide by the court’s decision and not impede the chainsaw crew’s work, although Tom Holleran, Megan’s father, does not think the tree cutters will be back immediately. He does feel that they will be back before the end of the cutting deadline. Trees are now undoubtedly on the sacrificial chopping block. Protest on the property may continue, but just how is yet to be defined, according to a statement made on the family’s FaceBook page.

Megan Holleran has befriended some of the tree cutting crews and gained sympathy for the family’s plight on this now symbolic small parcel of sugar bush. Tom Holleran says this is a remarkable skill she has developed doing archaeological work in the area. His fatherly pride is apparent; he is impressed with his daughter’s diplomacy.

But there is no comfort when the family knows these workers might soon blaze through this property with chainsaws on a tree-killing detail that also brings death to the family’s maple syrup livelihood.

Federal Judge Malachy Mannion and pipeline lawyers attempted to appease the family by informing them that Williams is losing money big time: $2,000 an hour for each tree cutting crew plus astronomical expenses incurred within the legal system. Tens of thousands of dollars.

Judge Mannion found the Hollerans not guilty of contempt for now, but if in the future they violate the court order and are not in compliance they will be facing major penalties including the cost of expenses incurred by the pipeline company, and immediate jail time. If invited guests on their property violate this order, it can mean the same for them as well.

This seems to be an unjustified use of eminent domain and makes little sense. Case law for pipelines dates back to the 1860s and remains virtually unchallenged. Many neighbors seem content to allow this form of eminent domain cutting through a once peaceful landscape. Some locals are very leery of all the out-of-state plates on visitors’ cars. This pipeline has pitted neighbor against neighbor and government dictates against citizen’s sovereign rights.

My film partner was physically attacked by a hired firewood cutter working alongside the road as we were filming from my car. We got all the ugliness on video. The guy became incensed that we were filming, ran at our slowly moving vehicle and tried to pull the camera from Bob’s hands as we passed him. He then fell and rolled on the road as we kept moving. It was clearly assault on two filmmakers.

The worker was being paid by the landowner to salvage firewood from trees laid waste in the pipeline’s path. Why he was so averse to be video recorded is beyond me. This is a tension point in a land being changed by eminent domain.

This pipeline work is private enterprise claiming to be a public utility. It is following a similar route of existing lines, all heading toward a gathering point near Albany, New York, where three other pipelines have already converged. The huge fossil-fuel corporations Williams and Cabot, partners in the pipeline, are in financial distress with a glutted natural gas market.

What do their stockholders think of all this planning? Do they really believe this is for the good of people and communities along the pipeline’s path? Have there been economic threats? Extortion to gain land on a grand scale?

This is an ill-planned interstate pipeline project. New York State has not allowed tree cutting, while Pennsylvania has given permission to lay waste to trees that stand in the line of construction slated for later this year. The question is why is there no apparent coordination on an interstate project between two states within the same union? Pennsylvania cuts and New York holds back.

What if New York State does not approve the pipeline? Thousands of trees will die by a thousand cuts. Trees will be sacrificed . . . for what?

We are left to question what our very freedoms are, who “owns” the soil between our toes and under our feet? Who has the right to take our peace of mind and our place of living?

There are more questions than answers as this saga develops.

As I swim through the turbulent climate crisis in Northeast Pennsylvania, a song of Woody Guthrie runs through my mind:

As I went walking, I saw a sign there
On the sign it said “NO TRESPASSING”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing
That side was made for you and me!

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can make me turn back

This land is your land, this land is my land . . .










“Blued Trees” Serves Cease-and-Desist on Fracked-Gas Corporation As Next Phase of Eco-Art Project Debuts Oct. 4

We’re happy to share exciting news from Aviva Rahmani and the Blued Trees Eco-Art/Symphony Project:

MEDIA ALERT      October 1, 2015

Algonquin Gas Tranmission receives notice to halt forest destruction, as Blued Trees Symphony’s First Movement is about to launch.

Blued Trees is a symphonic art installation encompassing visual and musical art forms in concert with nature. The project was conceived by ecological artist Aviva Rahmani to move the function of art beyond witnessing or illustrating ecosystem devastation and into direct engagement with policy. Rahmani was recruited by New York residents-cum-activists faced with condemnation and seizure of properties and beloved places by fracked-gas pipeline corporations.

As corporations are leveraging the legal tool of “eminent domain,” Rahmani is contesting the justice of that leverage, using the sword of copyright law: Blued Trees is being copyrighted by Rahmani in discrete movements, as it grows in scale.

Blued Treesconsists of trees in the line of destruction on which a blue sine wave is painted. One such tree is one note in the score. One-third mile of these notes constitutes one full measure in the symphony.

A Cease-and-Desist Demand has been served on the Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC. That corporation seeks to “condemn” the private property in Peekskill in Westchester County, NY, on which the overture for the project was installed on June 21, and copyrighted.

The overture was created on land that has been owned by a small group of families for four generations. That property lies in the path of the Algonquin Incremental Markets (AIM) pipeline for “natural” gas, planned by Algonquin and its parent company, Spectra Energy Partners, to span four states: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The pipeline is also slated to pass just 105 feet from vital structures at the Indian Point nuclear facility, 30 miles from New York City.

Additional measures and “Greek choruses” have joined the Blued Trees orchestra from 11 other sites internationally since the summer solstice overture launch.

On Sunday, Oct. 4, several simultaneous events in the Blued Trees Symphony/Saga will unfold:

  • Blued Trees’ First Movement will formally commence with a full 1/3-mile measure of the score being painted and performed in the rural Town of Augusta and Town of Kirkland, NY, threatened by the Dominion New Market Pipeline and Niagara Expansion Project of TGP/Kinder Morgan; and
  • Additional measures are joining the orchestra from the New River Valley of Virginia and Nassau, NY.

These new sites will be included in the second copyright filing. Five movements in total, over the next year, will complete this symphony, with the Coda planned for fall 2016.

The words of Pope Francis, delivered at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, resonate with Rahmani and other Blued Trees participants: “Any harm done to the environment . . . is harm done to humanity.”

Individuals and groups whose properties lie in the path of fossil-fuel infrastructure are invited to join the Blued Trees “Greek Chorus.” Detailed instructions are at

View a short video about the project.

See map with locations and photos of Blued Trees Symphony and Greek Chorus pieces.

View a graphic from the Spectra Corporation’s website of Spectra AIM project path at

Blued Trees is an element of Gulf to Gulf, a fiscally sponsored NYFA project, which has since 2010 investigated how art might impact climate change policy.

More information about Aviva Rahmani is at

Blued Trees defense fund site.

Blued Trees art support site

CONTACTS: Margery Newman, Publicity & Communications, 212-475-0252,; Aviva Rahmani, Eco-Artist, 212-864-0945;

CPNY Summit, Sunday August 2

Members are invited to our “every 18-21-month” continuum summit, “Digging Deeper, Bridging Boundaries,” on Sunday, August 2. You should hae received information with our exciting schedule and logistical details. If you are a member in good standing of one of CPNY’s affiliated groups, you are welcome to join us. Please contact or Maura if you need further info.



Town of Starkey Vote on Fracking Ban

When: View in Calendar » July 9, 2015 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Where: Starkey Town Hall

They passed it!!!! Unanimously!!!! Congratulations to all from CPNY and the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and Starkey residents who made it happen. And thanks to CEDC, as always.

CPNY Monthly Meeting, Fourth Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Montour Falls

When: View in Calendar » June 22, 2015 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Repeats: Monthly on 4th Tuesday - forever
Contact: Maura
607-274-3829 weekdays

All members in good standing of our allied and affiliated groups are invited to join us in Montour Falls. Meetings will be held in the usual place (check with Maura if you don’t know it) unless here noted.

New Group to Host Democracy Event Sat. 6/20 in Corning, 10 a.m.

Waste Not, Want Not was created recently when Mary Finneran, of CPNY and FrackBustersNY, and Steuben County residents concerned about health and welfare became alarmed about the radioactive fracking waste from Pennsyvlania being accepted into the Hakes Landfill.

Hakes Landfill has accepted about 150,000 tons of this waste since 2010, and the same problem is occurring in landfills around the state, including Hyland in Angelica and Chemung County Landfill in Lowman. “It’s pulverized rock laced with heavy metals and other stuff including radioactive materials,” explained Doug Couchon.

What motivated residents equally was the appalling indifference of Steuben County and Chemung County legislators to the eloquent pleas by those who elected them to stop accepting these highly toxic materials.

“When people try to protect their communities from harm, they are all too often held in contempt by their elected representatives,” Finneran points out. “As just one local example, there was a large vocal public presence over many months at Chemung County legislature meetings. Residents presented carefully researched evidence showing the dangers of drill cuttings and other toxins. But in the end, the legislators totally ignored public safety and wishes, and voted in favor of receiving landfill fees.”

In an even more blatant dismissal of communities’ rights to protect themselves from corporate harm, the legislature of Texas passed, and the governor signed, a law that supercedes local laws that kept dangerous corporate activities out. Now Texas municipalities cannot enforce their own laws against gas drilling and other threats, which opens the way for all sorts of industries to plunk themselves down in the middle of towns and do whatever they like, with no repercussions. The same sort of thing is happening in Oklahoma, where fracking has increased the incidence of earthquakes almost exponentially. And such quashing of local municipalities to set their own protective laws is likely to spread.

Growing numbers of people recognize that billionaires are creating state and federal laws, using their lobbyists and lawyers, protecting their own interests while finding ways to make it illegal for communities to protect themselves. Waste Not, Want Not members believe that if a large number of people — the 99 percent — unite, their power can trump the large amounts of money spent by the corporate-tied 1 percent to buy elections and make decisions on matters that affect everyone’s life.

Virginia Rasmussen, speaking at the group’s founding meeting, explained how corporate power interferes with citizens who try to protect themselves from such dangers, deliberately eroding our democracy and the will of the people.

“We like to believe the system is merely broken and that we can ‘fix’ it,” she said. “But the system has been rigged from the start against the real self-governing powers of the people. Our efforts to keep it from getting out of hand have now all been made utterly ineffective.”

Finneran cites as an example Schuyler County, where many people opposed to the Crestwood gas storage project along Seneca Lake have resorted to locking themselves down to protect their lives, livelihoods, and environment, many of them being arrested and prosecuted.

As Rasmussen says, “It’s time for a redesign!”

Thus Waste Not, Want Not will host a public forum on democracy and citizens’ rights on Saturday, June 20, 10:00 a.m.-noon, at the First Congregational United Church of Church, 171 W. Pulteney St., Corning.

The speakers will touch on a variety of topics such as New York Public Law #1; the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, which gave corporations “personhood” and took away real persons’ sovereign rights; campaign finance reform; the restoration of democracy; the need for constitutional change; the dangers of radioactive frack waste in our landfills; and the potential impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty.

See details on Facebook or here.

Citizens Uniting” Forum in Corning Sat. 6/20/15, 10 a.m.-Noon

When: View in Calendar » June 20, 2015 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Where: View Map » First Congregational United Church of Christ, 171 West Pulteney Street, Corning,NY 14830, USA
Cost: Free
Contact: Karen Biesanz
(607) 936-3915

Waste Not, Want Not, a local environmental and democracy watchdog group, will hold “Citizens Uniting…” a forum organized by and for local people, on Saturday, June 20, 2015 from 10 a.m. to noon at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 171 W. Pulteney St., Corning, NY.

An open microphone session will follow the three speakers, who will discuss, among other things, using nonviolent civil disobedience and criminalization tactics in the fight to protect communities from corporate harms abetted by government officials’ misdeeds.

Virginia Rasmussen of Alfred has worked in environmental education for many years.  She served in village government and as an associate with the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy. Virginia is presently active in the national grassroots initiative Move to Amend, and is a founding member of FrackBustersNY.

Doug Couchon, PhD, recently retired after 32 years as a psychologist, teacher and administrator at Elmira College. Doug is a founding member of People for a Healthy Environment, Coalition to Protect New York, and FrackBustersNY. He is involved in the We are Seneca Lake protests against Crestwood’s salt cavern gas storage and is actively protesting the Chemung County Landfill expansion.

Mary Finneran grew up in Painted Post and has worked for years on social justice and environmental concerns. She believes it should be legal for we, the people, to write legislation directly and independently.

Dianne Roe    (607) 654-3450
Karen Biesanz  (607) 936-3915


Conestoga Town Supervisors Squash Democratic Process

See the Press release below from our friends in Lnacaster County, PA, about a most outrageous (but sadly, not surprising) event that happened Tuesday evening, April 28, in Conestoga Township, during an “informational meeting” about an upcoming vote on home rule called by the town supervisors.

Members of the public “were admonished and some were told to leave after attempting to clarify and present information . . . ” And one was arrested for the same. This kind of fascistic activity by local legislatures against their own constituents has got to stop. All Conestoga residents should have stood with and insisted on being arrested along with fellow resident Kim Kann, who was simply trying to clarify a point but instead was taken into custody by police at the behest of these “supervisors” — all while resisting enforced servility by officials of whom she is the boss! They are, after all, supposedly working for the people of the community.

But just as in NYS and elsewhere, the “public” officers who are supposed to represent We the People are instead passing “rules” such as this, from Conestoga Township’s website: “Please check the legal section of Lancaster Newspapers for meeting cancellations or meeting date changes. Please notify the township secretary seven days prior to a meeting if you have an issue you would like to bring before the board. If you have documents, plans, etc. that you wish to present during a supervisors meeting, you must deliver those items to the township office no later than one week prior to the meeting. There will be no exceptions to this procedure.”

The Public is not welcome to speak at Public meetings? B.S. We still have some constitutional rights. We have to demand them, or they will not be honored.

Unfortunately, the press release below does not name names. But we do. Please call these “legislators” and tell them what you think of their using such violent tactics on peaceful citizens exercising their rights.

The main office number for the Town of Conestoga is 717-872-4301.


VICE CHAIR: JOHN BERRY, 717-715- [number mispublished as 715-98970]

MEMBER: REBECCA MILES, 717- 872-1620


SOLICITOR: Blakinger, Byler & Thomas  717-299-1100

POLICE CHIEF: JOHN FIORILL       717-872-0352




Pro-Home Rule Conestoga Resident arrested for speaking during public meeting

Conestoga Township supervisors ordered police officers to arrest Conestoga resident Kim Kann during a public meeting Tuesday evening at the Conestoga Fire Hall. Kann was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after speaking in response to the Supervisors’ presentation on Home Rule.

The supervisors ordered police to detain Kann for not following their meeting format, which limited Conestoga residents to only asking questions. Statements or clarifications from township residents were banned by the supervisors, as were questions or comments about the proposed pipeline. Kann says she was attempting to clarify misinformation presented by the supervisors regarding Home Rule – which she supports.

Lawrence M. Otter, an election and constitutional lawyer, said, “This appalling behavior by the elected officials shows a complete disregard for fundamental American values and rights. The police were equally complicit is suppressing an American citizen’s right to speak at a public meeting. The charges of disorderly conduct will be vigorously contested at the magistrate level and beyond.”

Said Kann, “I stated my intention to ask a question after the misinformation was corrected, and repeatedly stated that it is my first amendment right to speak briefly at a public meeting without limitations, as per my first amendment protections.

The Conestoga Township supervisors organized the public meeting for Tuesday to present information on Home Rule. About 200 people were in attendance. Conestoga residents who make up the Conestoga Community Group (CCG) attended the meeting, and were admonished and some were told to leave after attempting to clarify and present information about Home Rule and the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.

Said Leslie Bunting, a Conestoga resident who attended the meeting, “This meeting was a perfect example of why Conestoga needs home rule. It’s absurd that residents can’t speak their mind at a public meeting without the supervisors ordering police to arrest them. That is not democracy.”

Kann wished to clarify several statements made by presenters during the meeting.

“Expert presenters mischaracterized the May 19 election as being “for home rule.” It is specifically to vote yes or no to the question of seating a government study commission and selecting government study commissioners. This is a very important point that deserved clarity.

“Another point was the Chairman Eshelman’s comment regarding Conestoga Community Group participation. The group replied we would participate, but were denied the opportunity. The final point that was unable to be stated was the misrepresentation by a panel expert that we could expect a government study commission to spend $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 or more. The PA home rule handbook published by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development states for municipalities with 5,000 or fewer residents the average cost was $976.76.”

CPNY Assessment Gathering: Where Are We on the Road to a Viable Future?

When: View in Calendar » August 2, 2015 @ 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Where: Schuyler County, NY, USA
Contact: Jack Ossont

Hold the date for the next CPNY Continuum Gathering. It will be held on Sunday, August 2, 2015 in Schuyler County. CPNY members and allies will get invitations with details via email.


Solarize Event in Berkshire with Southern Tier Solar Works

When: View in Calendar » May 3, 2015 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Where: View Map » Berkshire Community Hall, 11 Jewett Hill Road, Berkshire,NY 13736, USA
Categories: Broome Chemung Chenango Tioga
Tags: Electricity Homes renewable energy Residential Solar solar energy solarize Southern Tier

Learn about how you and your family or business can benefit from this exciting new program to double the number of Tioga and Broome county residences and businesses powered by the sun! Save energy AND save money.  An informative presentation by STSW program director Adam Flint will be followed by a lively Q&A and your chance to speak directly with the three vendors chosen by this people-driven program: ETM Solar/Taitem, Renovus Energy, and Direct Energy Solar.

Upcoming events will be held in Binghamton (May 6) and Afton (May 7). And there will be a solar home tour on May 9 throughout Broome County!

Learn more and watch a great video from another recent presentation that was held in Vestal,