Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ramapo Students, Faculty Protest Pipeline

By Diana Stanczak 

          Pop quiz: Where does the name “Ramapo” originate from?
          The answer is from the Ramapough Lenape Indians, and Ramapo College shares more with these Native Americans than just a name.
          For the past few months, a handful of students and professors have been working with members of the Ramapough Lenape tribe to protest the expansion of a gas pipeline. The pipeline, proposed by the Tennessee Gas Company, would run through about 1.4 acres of the Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Bergen County’s largest park area located down the street from Ramapo College. The pipeline has raised concerns about the destruction of cultural and historical sights, as well as possible water contamination, among residents of Mahwah and surrounding towns.
          Chief Mann of the Ramapough Lenape is trying to raise awareness about the pipeline in order to stop its construction.
          “What we are standing up against now is only the tip of the mountain, if we don't all fall in line to protect our Grand Mother Earth now, they will be giving the green light to continue to destroy her. We all will be the ones left here to die for the lack of having a clean drinking water supply if we don't stand together as one,” Mann wrote in an email.
          The concern about water contamination stems from the fact that the proposed pipeline would transport gas obtained by induced hydroulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Fracked gas is obtained by injecting highly pressurized fluids into methane gas deposits to draw out the valuable natural gas. The problem lies within the methane leaks and the fractures to the earth caused by the pressure, contaminating the surrounding site.
          “During this process [fracking] over 700 chemicals are forced into the earth and causing the shale to crack. There is no way to control where or what these chemicals crack, such as the bedrock which opens the door for these chemicals to enter into our water supply,” Mann wrote.
          Some Ramapo professors, like Neriko Doerr, Jan Barry Crumb and Chuck Stead are incorporating these issues into their classes.
          Students in Doerr’s World Cultures class had a discussion with Chief Perry of the Ramapo Lenape.  Students in Crumb’s and Stead’s classes attended environmental lectures and were invited to participate in protests against the pipeline.
          Senior Jillian Banks supports the pipeline protests.
          “[It is important] to make the students aware of the threat and possible injustice to the people being affected by the pipeline, and how the environment will be impacted negatively,” Banks said.
          In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that the pipeline would not have a significant impact on any surrounding land, but not everyone is convinced.
          “We are asking that humans take a stand not just for what we think is right, but for one the very essential part of life.... our water, and to stand with those who are fully committed to protect it as well,” Mann wrote.

This article also appeared in The Ramapo News.

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