Communities along the route of a massive new fracking pipeline in Pennsylvania have plenty of reasons to worry about their safety. And these concerns were bolstered when news came out that students at Glenwood Elementary School in Middletown took part in an evacuation drill.
The simulated evacuation was more than a routine emergency drill. The Mariner East 2 pipeline, approved by state regulators, will carry highly volatile natural gas liquids along its 350-mile route. Given the proximity of the pipeline to occupied buildings like homes, offices and elementary schools, a leak or explosion could create a nightmare scenario. Glenwood is just 650 feet from the pipeline route.
As local activists point out, the drill is not a realistic plan anyway. The gas carried by this pipeline could be ignited by everyday objects -- from refrigerators to stoves to cars. So driving buses to the school to evacuate the children to safety could actually make matters worse. Teachers and students with cell phones couldn't even call out for help, as using such devices might also ignite an explosion.
The safety of local schoolchildren has been a concern of the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, a group organizing against Mariner East 2 in Delaware and Chester Counties. And it’s not just one school that is endangered by this pipeline; activists have shown that there could be as many as 40 schools in harm's way if the Mariner East pipeline is built.
There's one way to make sure children aren't put in harm's way: stopping the pipeline. Communities along the Mariner 2 route can stand up to Sunoco by passing zoning provisions that would protect their residents from this dangerous pipeline. In fact, some municipalities already have such local laws on the books, but they have decided against enforcing them.