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Anti-Pipeline Nuns Sue Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Over Land

Oil Pipeline Burial Grounds
Pipes for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline are stacked at a staging area in Worthing, S.D. / AP
• July 19, 2017 11:37 am

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An order of Catholic nuns in Pennsylvania is suing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for approving a natural gas pipeline that the nuns believe is violating their religious freedom.

The nuns, who belong to the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and believe in "the sacredness of Earth," sued the FERC for violating their religious freedom that is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, McClatchy reported. The complaint was filed last Friday.

"It's clear they take seriously their belief that the Earth is God's creation and it needs to be protected and preserved," said J. Dwight Yoder, a lawyer representing the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.

The FERC approved Williams Companies' construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline early this year. The path of the pipeline would cross through a strip of land owned by the congregation.

The nuns allowed the Landcaster Against Pipelines group to build a chapel in mid-July on the cornfield that the nuns have been leasing to a farmer. The chapel, comprised of several wooden pews, was built on a cleared area of the cornfield that the pipeline would run through.

The nuns have welcomed activists to pray at the new chapel blocking the pipeline.

Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, said the company offered to compensate the nuns more than the appraised value to use the property.

"The Adorers represent 1 of less than 30 landowners with whom we have not yet finalized an agreement," Stockton said. "Once the easement is restored, there will be very little evidence that a pipeline is present."