After Danielle Friel Otten found out that Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) was building the dangerous Mariner East 2 gas liquids pipeline just 40 feet from her backyard, she became an early leader in the grassroots movement to stop it.
Next year, she’ll be in Harrisburg representing her community in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
We were lucky to meet Danielle at a community meeting we convened after Sunoco’s drilling contaminated drinking water in one township. Soon after, we started knocking on doors together in our successful campaign effort to elect anti-pipeline activists to seats on the Uwchlan Township Board of Supervisors. We knew she was the kind of leader who could wage a winning campaign to represent the 155th District. And she would do that by making the fight against the corporation bullying her community front and center.
Our local activists and volunteers were an integral part of the campaigns of Friel Otten and Kristin Seale, another leader in the Mariner East 2 fight. We helped the campaigns identify and mobilize thousands of voters in Chester and Delaware Counties, and we knocked on doors to get out the vote. Danielle won a resounding victory in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats, while Kristin came within a few hundred votes of unseating a Republican incumbent.
There's a reason voters were motivated to take action. Sunoco’s drilling for the 350-mile pipeline has caused dozens of spills, created several large sinkholes, and has contaminated drinking water in West Whiteland Township. Residents along the pipeline route fear that a leak or rupture will cause catastrophic damage in densely-populated communities. The fight against Sunoco has attracted national media attention, culminating in Danielle being featured in a long profile in the New Yorker magazine.
In the midst of her campaign, Danielle graciously joined us in October to talk about the role that "two little hippies" from our political lobbying arm Food & Water Action -- organizers Sam Rubin and Sam Bernhardt -- played in strengthening the community opposition to Sunoco, and transforming her from a reluctant door-to-door campaigner to a candidate for political office.
Here's how she put it:
So many of us have things we care about, and so many of us have friends and neighbors who care about the same things. But if we don’t know what to do with those people and that energy, and we don’t know how to organize, we can’t win. Last year, Sam and Sam (Food & Water Watch organizers) came and they helped us learn how to organize. We got out, we knocked on doors, we talked to our neighbors.... They are the reason I said yes to running, to take the next step to the State House for our community.
Danielle’s victory is what happens when communities get organized to fight a corporate bully. And she won't be alone: There is a slate of newly elected Democrats who are heading to Harrisburg to fight fracking and stand up against fossil fuel special interests.