The sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ order own land in Lancaster County, Penn., that they consider sacred. Now Williams, an energy company, wants to run a gas pipeline through that land—and the nuns have constructed a chapel on the grounds, in the middle of a cornfield, to illustrate their protest against the plan. "We just wanted to symbolize, really, what is already there: This is holy ground," one sister tells the Washington Post. The chapel was consecrated July 9 in a service attended by more than 300 people, and others have come to pray and leave ribbons showing their solidarity since then. Williams wants to use the land for its Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, which will carry the natural gas extracted by fracking from the state's Marcellus shale region to other areas. The sisters' order is particularly concerned with environmental protection and activism.
Williams would be paying for an easement to dig up the land and put the pipeline in before returning the land to its owners, compensating farmers for lost crops, and checking to make sure farm output (the nuns lease the land to a farmer) returns to normal afterward. The company tried to negotiate with the nuns over the path's pipeline, but that went nowhere. "We are believers in sustainable energy," says the aforementioned sister. "These are fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are dangerous to the environment. They are not sustainable." There are fewer than 30 landowners who haven't made agreements with Williams, leading the company to undertake proceedings to seize the property through eminent domain—a right granted to it by federal law. But the nuns have filed their own complaint, and a number of religious freedom laws could protect their interests. See the Post for more, or Lancaster Online has details on a related hearing taking place this week. (Read more fracking stories.)