The backdrop Tuesday morning was quiet – there wasn’t too much traffic on Route 202 and only a few visitors to the Ramapo Valley Reservation when a group of environmental activists and students from Ramapo College came into the park with a message – stop the construction on an extension to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline that runs through Mahwah.
“Yes We Can, Stop the Pipeline,” a group of about 65 people chanted as they marched from Ramapo College to the reservation carrying picket signs and a mock pipeline. The group then staged a teach-in at the park where speakers talked about the pipeline expansion project.
Tennessee Gas has begun clearing trees in the reservation for its Northeast Upgrade Project, which seeks to add a looping pipe to an existing gas pipeline that was built in the 1950’s. The expansion would increase the amount of gas that flows through the company’s ‘300-line,’ which starts in West Milford and ends at the Mahwah Compression Station.
According to Matthew Smith, an environmental activist with Food & Water Watch who organized Tuesday’s protest, a group of “local grassroots citizens,” are planning to take a bigger stand against the project.
A small group has set up an encampment on the Ringwood side of the reservation, off of Greenwood Lake Turnpike, he said. The group, known as ‘Stop the Tennessee Gas Pipeline,’ will stay there for about a week in the hopes that their presence will stop crews from chopping down trees and moving forward with construction.
“These are people who are willing to put their bodies on the line in between the trees and the tree-cutters,” Smith said. “If we can keep this last stand in tact, we may have defeated this project.”
According to Smith, the group plans to stay in the encampment until March 14, which he said is a deadline Tennessee Gas must meet. If the trees are not cleared by then, the company must wait eight months to clear them because of environmental protections in the area, Smith said.
“Who knows what can happen in eight months?”
Representatives from Tennessee Gas did not return a call for comment. But, according to a NorthJersey.com report, TG acknowledges the tree-cutting deadline.
Though Tuesday’s rally was not specifically linked to the encampment, Smith – who is involved with both – said he hopes the protest will help spread awareness about the pipeline project, fracking and other environmental concerns.