township manager dearest, and west goshen meeting follies…oh my

West Goshen Township operates on it’s better days as a little bit Pennsyltucky on this planet. Every once in a while I think they can’t get any kookier….and then, they surprise us all.

The thing about West Goshen is every time something happens, you have to wonder why do they seem to target resident in a petty tit for tat reprisal fashion? And I also have to wonder will they come after me for asking questions as well?

Before we proceed, a history lesson on the laws which gover the USA:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

~ 4th Amendment Constitution of United States of America 1789 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

~1st Amendment Constitution of United States of America 1789

So now to the meat of the matter. A Facebook post made me stop and take notice. See this screenshot:

Wait? WHOA!!!! Whuuuuut? The Chair of West Goshen Supervisors Shaun Walsh was THAT rude? So I went to the meeting tape (which I have to ask if it will mysteriously disappear at some point I wonder?) and well go to around the 3 hour 7 minute mark and you tell me:

Now, full disclosure: the woman targeted at this meeting is a friend of mine. Her name is Margie Swart. She is a lovely human being. But she has a moral compass and strong sense of ethics, and asks questions, so <<<sigh>>> that can be a problem some places. I respect Margie immensely. We have gotten to know each other over the course of time, and have mutual friends.

I have to ask if Margie Swart is a target of West Goshen Township? As in a resident speaks up and there are cute reprisals? Yes West Goshen, I can indeed ask these questions.

So let’s back up a couple of years to something interesting I learned about just today. So…people can and do record public meetings, they aren’t just some municipality purview, correct? People do that to accurately preserve a record, especially on important topics. People also will record conversations with elected and public officials in public spaces. People like the media, for example. They aren’t doing anything nefarious, they want an accurate record and elected and appointed officials should be glad when citizens are conscientious, right? Maybe not?

So here is this now infamous recording from 2019 and why is it infamous? Oh I will get to that.

So there is that whole conversation of essentially, one cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy for things put into a public space, right? Now if this conversation had been recorded in a bathroom in a public building for example, that would be different, wouldn’t it? But out there in the open in a public building? Next comes the reprisal, because since it is not illegal to record in a public space to try to file charges against a private citizen like that can be considered well, a reprisal, correct?

Yes, you aren’t seeing things, West Goshen Township tried to charge Margie Swart with WIRETAPPING and isn’t that welcome to West Goshen Watergate NUTS???

Next comes this curiosity in the West Goshen required reading, yes?

How can West Goshen Township Manager Casey LaLonde claim his phone conversation was recorded? Was he present? Do you hear his voice? I mean talk about d-r-a-maaaa right? I mean his grandma was actress Joan Crawford as in “Mommy Dearest” fame but REALLY? Township Manager Dearest much?

I have another question about this process and shameful debacle. Why should a resident and taxpayer have had to file a RTK or Right To Know Request on something a township publishes in a newspaper and which is also dually published in https://www.publicnoticepa.com/ ? I mean I could see them telling her to look for West Goshen Township notices on that website on X date and Y year, but a Right To Know Request? Wait??? Do we have a new show coming to a cable channel near you? It’s Always Cloudy in West Goshen Township? Lots of municipalities seem to struggle with sunshine laws and being sunshine friendly, but why is it a problem when residents ask questions in this township?

Margie is not the first Local Government Fiscal Watchdog and Transparency Advocate I have known. I have known many and I actually participated in a lack of sunshine protest years ago in Lower Merion Township – April 21, 2010 to be exact. It was a rather large protest and township officials were out taking photos of everyone too. Here’s a photo I took:

So how did the wiretapping thing end? Well there is a middle to it also isn’t there? How would you like to be a resident named as an “involved party in a wiretapping investigation”? And this thing occurred literally TWO years ago in September, 2019 and you find out about it TODAY in September, 2021?

Shall we talk about the final disposition of this? Is that an “Oh yes please?”

The Chester County District Attorney’s said NOPE, correct? So what was West Goshen playing at exactly?

Back to the recent meeting and I have to ask is it wrong to ask for government to be accountable as to their finances for example? And what’s with odd employee or manager practices? Are the taxpayer who pay these salaries not allowed to politely inquire? And Margie WAS polite. Listen to the recording. She is ALWAYS polite. I can tell you that at public meetings, I have not always been polite, but Margie? ALWAYS polite.

I don’t pretend to understand everything that happens in this municipality. I can’t pretend. But as a woman, I fear for my friend Margie Swart and can you blame me? Is she safe living there?

West Goshen Township, you need to find a better way of doing things and as an aside, so y’all are also hired who was the Borough Manager of Malvern as your Assistant Township Manager? Was all that vetted publicly or just announced?

West Goshen Township, you are entirely capable of avoiding thug mentality when dealing with residents. And yes I am entitled to the opinion that y’all behave badly. Residents who demand better aren’t bad people. And this is NOT a woman screaming and cursing and disrupting meetings with violent and angry behavior like we have seen this year at school board meetings. This is a woman who wants the best for her community and the person this seems to threaten the most is the Township Manager and why is that? It’s not his personal fiefdom is it? Or is it?

I am signing off with a note that everything I posted is public record. And I am allowed the opinions I have of West Goshen Township and sure am glad I don’t live there. I also can ask questions. I don’t understand a place where the elected officials kowtow to an appointed, salaried official because he works for them not the other way around, correct? Or have they all lost their moral and ethical compasses?

My final comment? It’s often hard to participate where you live, but we have to. It’s imperative. Elect people you can believe in, and when you can’t believe in them? Replace them.

are we safe co-existing with sunoco/energy transfer?

Photo taken by my friend Tom last evening after explosion or whatever it was from Energy Transfer/Sunoco

Last evening around 8 PM social media exploded from Facebook to Next Door with Chester County residents concerned about an explosion.

A friend of mine said today:

“It’s no longer about feeling angry and powerless about these pipelines, today I no longer feel safe in my home.”

What do you say to someone who is your friend when they say this? How do you console them? The short answer is you can’t.  How can you?  These pipelines are one problem after the other. Inadvertent returns or whatever you want to call it when drilling fluid rises up and floods a street, gets into a water well, and so on. Sinkholes. And now an explosion?

Residents of streets like Mary Jane Lane and in Hamlet Hill in West Chester actually felt their homes shake. Shake.

Oh and how dis Sunoco/Energy Transfer respond? See here:

For real? That’s it? That is the best they have got? Do they really think we are such rubes? I think we all know the difference between say an electrical transformer blowing, a car backfiring, and and actual explosion sound where HOUSES SHAKE????

It’s appalling. And will someone kindly explain how when people called this noise into 911 it didn’t even end up on PulsePoint? And only a lone police officer responded? There is a fire station right there, correct? With first responders who are response trained? Was this officer also trained in responding to pipeline emergencies? And before ANYONE FLIPS OUT I am not criticizing the fact this officer showed up, I am GRATEFUL he at least arrived on scene but where was everyone else? And now as the dust settles, I am being told by residents that the county says it is West Goshen’s responsibility yet supposedly the West Goshen Emergency Management Coordinator who is also purportedly the fire marshall over there did NOT know a thing until they saw it on social media this morning?

Who is playing God with the potential safety of residents?

All day long helicopters have been circling over there. My friends recorded them above their homes and I saw them myself when over at the Giant on Boot Road. They all can’t be from the helicopter museum, so who were they?

Saw this earlier:

And this:

Once again I am struck with the fact that residents and homeowners and even people who are just driving by pipeline sites are just constantly exposed to risk.  We can’t live our lives in fear, but how about credible information?

Yes no one was hurt BUT this is scary, scary stuff. And as residents we seem to be forced to absorb an inordinate amount of potential danger when it comes to these pipelines. And we don’t benefit. There is no reward for the risk, just risk.

We have friends who have left this part of Chester County because of the pipelines. We have other friends who received NO as in ZERO disclosure of the pipeline easement when they bought their home in West Whiteland. They only found out purely by accident. Now they have their dream home and not so dreamy pipeline in their front yard.

Officials claim they are looking into all f this and to them I say try harder, look faster. Last night was an unwelcome reminder of the risk of those pipelines. Every day we see the destruction.

Sunoco says Mariner East 2 system ‘backfired’ during maintenance but no risk to public. Residents report loud explosion; company says no liquids leaked from line By Jon Hurdle

skin in the game of pipelines?

8619939a-a9f3-4ba4-b60e-a0ab19f2f7ab

So I started looking at the interactive pipeline map again along with the pipeline website for Chester County set up by the Chester County Planning Commission. And it prompted an email to pipeline companies and the Chester County Planning Commission to clarify how we would possibly be affected where we live. ( I will note we have neighbors not so far away who have like three pipelines running through their property.)

“When I look at our mapping, which uses the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) that the Federal Government maintains, in conjunction with the pipeline operators, the western edge of your house is roughly 1,030 feet from the closest line, which is Interstate Energy, which is planned to be converted to natural gas.”

~ Carrie from Chester County Planning Commission

Close enough.

Yikes. (and that is the most polite phrase fit to print.)

And for what isn’t planned, possibly planned, maybe planned, who knows what plan exists right through my backyard and/or woods, well I would be close enough to be in a blast zone. Only it is apparently not politically correct to use that phrase, because when I did, I was told:

Regarding your concern about being in a “blast zone,” our office does not define or utilize the phrase “blast zone.” We do use the term Consultation Zone, which is a term used by the federal government and operators to distinguish an area of 1000 feet (in Chester County) on either side of an existing transmission pipeline where coordination between local officials, landowners, and operators are encouraged to consult with each other before land developments are planned for these areas. The US Department of Transportation (which houses the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Office of Pipeline Safety) sponsored a planning effort known as “Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance” (2010,) which identified the phrase Consultation Zone. They define it as an area extending from each side of a transmission pipeline to describe when a property developer/owner, who is planning a new development in the vicinity of an existing transmission pipeline, should initiate a dialogue with the operator. (see https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/…/pipa-report-final-20101117.p…) These zones are a recommended practice and not something that is required.

As another person pointed out to me:

 …the Blast Zone is something different. PHMSA calls it the “Buffer Zone” but sorry, we and our loved ones are not buffers.

If Adelphia [and others] end up being like Mariner East, at a 1000 ft you will be within the Blast Zone.

 

Whether Buffer Zone, Consultation Zone, or Blast Zone….they are all scary bad zones to me, o.k.?

Well now, apparently I will have skin in the game? That now I can join all of the other Chester County and Delaware County residents worrying about pipelines?

Fabulous. Worry is such a good look on people, right? (Dripping sarcasm, can you feel it?)

What started me like Alice down the proverbial pipeline rabbit hole this week is something I saw posted on Charlestown’s website:

adelphia

You see, in neighboring East Whiteland Township where I live, the township doesn’t have much out there yet on the pipelines.    All I found (easily – I say easily because perhaps information is hidden deep down in website ) was the Adelphia Gateway letter from January, which I had already seen.  Here it is:

A lot of townships now have stand alone pages with pipeline information.  Like East Goshen, Uwchlan, and Upper Uwchlan, for example. (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE) All townships with any pipelines should have these informational pages in my opinion.

I will note that when I sent my email to Chester County Planning about pipelines in my particular neighborhood, while the planning commission was kind and replied to me, only  ONE pipeline company gave me the courtesy of a reply acknowledging my outreach. Ryan Lumbridge from Enbridge. He offered up his phone number if I need to speak with him.  I will call him but I am most concerned with Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy. And apparently since now a couple of days has passed without even a simple acknowledgement of contact, Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy don’t seem to think they need to communicate with residents.

Wrong.

The pipeline companies need to communicate. To Interstate especially I say if you plan to maybe possibly or maybe definitely plan to do something 1,030 from the edge of our property, you can show a little interest. I am on a well, I have gardens, I have beautiful woods and more.  I want to know exactly what Interstate is planning to do if they do it and when. I am sure I am but one of many emails they get, and I am trying to be calm and rational, except I have seen what is going on in neighboring municipalities with Sunoco, and well, I don’t want my neighborhood to have these problems. 

I reiterate my objections to these pipelines which rape and pillage and destroy so they can ship their good overseas so other companies in Europe and elsewhere can do things like make more plastic.  Our homes are our castles, our American dreams and it is heinous that American companies can just take our land (without even just compensation in my opinion) and trash it for their profit. And put us in danger.

We are also densely populated enough that what if with other pipeline companies wishing to be Sunoco-Mariner East II-Lite something blows up? Collapses? Ruins wells, breaks water mains? Causes sinkholes? Brings down property values? We as residents are NOT protected. Officials can’t say it won’t happen because all the media coverage and whatnot shows it HAS happened.  Are we just to repeat the same darn patterns over and over from pipeline company to pipeline company and municipality to municipality???

I am sure pipeline companies want residents to just go quietly into the night.  We can’t. Our lives and our homes and our properties are at stake.  You can’t bully, harass, or threaten us into submission. We live here and like it or not, we have rights.  We shouldn’t have to be pipeline guinea pigs should we?

And right or wrong, I feel like these pipeline companies, our sitting Governor Tom Wolf, and even municipalities at times want us as residents to know as little as possible.

#DefendWhatYouLove

Here is a round-up of some recent articles I found:

DelCo Times Guest Column: An opposing view to Sunoco’s rosy outlook on pipeline project

Daily Local News: Middletown to Pa.: Stop pipeline construction

Dragonpipe Diary: Here’s how the “worst case” could happen: a dry run

Philadelphia Business Journal: PUC rules to keep Mariner East 2, 2X pipeline construction on hold

Delco Times: Delco moves forward on pipeline risk assessment study

Daily Local News:  Local lawmaker calls on PUC to post pipeline public comments online

State Impact PA:Officials: Water main contractor struck Mariner East 2 in Delaware County

Daily Local: Chesco Commissioners urge PUC to stand against pipeline projects