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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Andy's Angles: Eminent Domain

Today, it's another "twofer."  It's a mix of Andy's Angles and First Person.

I was seated at my desk Tuesday morning when the call came in-- a pipeline company was taking down trees for a natural gas pipeline through Susquehanna County.  We had been following the story for months.  The family that owns the land tried to stop it.  It didn't work.  The court gave its okay to saw down some very old maple trees.

Let me explain what you're seeing above.  The cutting operation is at the upper left.  The tiny people you see in the upper middle are the U.S. Marshals, assigned to keep the peace.  Protestors are in the foreground.

We make efforts to keep the same reporters on the same stories.  Their expertise makes for better journalism.  This one wasn't my story, but the two reporters who had been following it were away on other things.  It fell in to my lap.  I had been following it, and I searched our computer files in the truck on the way to a story.  I was up to speed when we pulled in to New Milford Township.

It was quite the scene.  Tree cutters on one side.  Protesters on the other.  Heavily armed U.S. Marshals in the middle.  State Police on the periphery.  The local commander pulled me over to point out this was a federal operation and they were there for support.

I got my interviews.  Photographer Steve got the video and the sound of chain saws and trees hitting the ground.  I sent back some photos for WNEP.com and we put together a nice piece for Newswatch 16.  Jim Hamill took over as I left.
We don't take sides, so let's objectively examine some ticklish aspects here.  The process of eminent domain seems brutally unfair.  It was sad to see those old trees come down.  They're not just decoration.  The produce sap, which is boiled down into maple syrup.  It's how a family makes its money.   On the other hand, if we didn't have eminent domain, there never would have been a highway or railway built in this country.  The goal is to be as fair as possible.  Compensate the land owner, take as little land as possible.  Was this achieved here?  You be the judge.

Some complained the U.S. Marshals had too mush firepower for the scene.  In this day and age, do you want them to take the chance.  The protesters, other than a few shouts, were very peaceful and respectful.  Boundaries obeyed.  There were reports of threats.  Again, do you want to take the chance, and it appears maximum firepower is now standing operating procedure, because of what's happened elsewhere.

To many, natural gas drilling brings American energy independence and jobs.  Everything has a price.  Is it worth it?  That's up to you to decide.