Protestors crash oil pipeline conference

By Scott Mahoney -

Shortly after President Donald Trump signed executive actions to advance the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, Oberlin’s Lisa Kavanaugh drove to Pittsburgh to voice her concern about the industry.

She joined around 30 people from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and beyond who protested the 2017 Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference, which took place Jan. 25 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

“We decided this was a great place for us to share our dissatisfaction with the industry as a whole, for the pipelines and the lack of movement toward a renewable source of energy for our nation,” Kavanaugh said.

The protest wasn’t aimed at shutting down the industry, which Kavanaugh admits isn’t a realistic goal right now.

“I went with the hopes of having a conversation with some of the delegates there,” she said. “I wanted to see what they were thinking and have an intelligent conversation with them about the real possibilities of replacing old pipelines that are breaking every day.

“We weren’t looking to destroy the entire industry. We know we can’t stop it all at once.”

The delegates weren’t anxious to have such conversations, though, according to Kavanaugh.

“A few of the delegates did speak to us as they walked by,” she said. “We were mostly invisible to them when they walked by but most that did talk to us were sarcastic.”

One of the delegates did stop to speak with Kavanaugh and the protestors: “He told us ‘I hope I’m out of a job, because I work for this industry and know it’s going to end. I want to be on the side that goes green, because that’s where the money is going to be.’

“(He) was very clear in saying that the pipelines have gone way beyond their expected lifetime of 50 years. He said if they’re not replaced there’s going to be more bursting pipelines.”

The Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference aimed to gather midstream operators, upstream producers, analysts, and leading service companies in Pittsburgh to examine midstream challenges, according to a press release from the organizers. It also focused on “identifying new markets emerging for Applalachia’s bounty of natural gas.”

Speakers at the conference included executives from several companies, including the Williams Companies, Blue Racer Midstream, Stonehenge Entergy Resources, and DTE Gas Storage and Pipelines.

“The industry seems to know all (about the problems with the pipelines), but it doesn’t seem to care,” Kavanaugh said. “Because of that, the people are going to suffer. If they want to keep the industry alive, they can do that by replacing the existing pipelines.”

Scott Mahoney can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @sm_mahoney on Twitter.

By Scott Mahoney