For over a year, through the cold and heat, the citizens of Orange County have held weekly pickets outside the construction site of a massive fracked gas power plant being built in their community.
The CPV fracked gas power plant will emit 700 tons of known carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors each year and will increase demand for fracking in neighboring Pennsylvania.
Scott Martens, a father of two young children from Middletown, saw folks protesting outside the construction site, stopped by and has been involved in the fight to stop CPV ever since. He says he’s been out there almost every Saturday for a year letting people know about the threats CPV poses to his community and the planet.
Now Millennium, the company building the Valley Lateral Pipeline (VLP), a 7.8 mile pipeline that will transport fracked gas to the CPV plant from the larger Millennium transmission line, is trying to silence Scott.
They filed a SLAPP suit (A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.) against him claiming he caused irreparable harm when he filmed crews begin to clear trees for the VLP in early December. Scott was there because the tree clearing threatened the habitat of endangered bald eagles.
In a Facebook post before heading to his first court date Scott said:
“On December 1st of this year I viewed and video recorded a majestic Bald Eagle sitting in its nest in a pine tree 80 feet from the proposed Valley Lateral pipeline alignment. This is the pipeline that will bring fracked gas to the unfinished CPV power plant for the next 40 years. Since that morning I have felt a profound sense of responsibility to protect these Eagles and their habitat. At that moment I knew that the these Eagles are there to protect us and we will be there to protect them….
My interactions with the workers included asking them what they were doing, where they were from, and notifying them they were in violation of the The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act…
I learned a lot through this situation and as it marinates, I’m sure what remains fuzzy will come into focus. One thing is for sure, the fracked gas infrastructure proliferating throughout our state is dangerous and unnecessary. We must stand up now. To wait is to relinquish our homes and health to multinational corporations that are purely profit driven. I am only one man doing what I can to protect what I love. But together we are a force to be reckoned with.”
At that court date in late December, an Orange County Supreme Court Judge denied Millennium a temporary restraining order against Scott, but he will be back in court later this month.
“It’s a SLAPP lawsuit,” said Scott in front of the CPV plant that now towers over the weekly pickets. “It’s strategically done to try to scare me, to try to scare all of us from out here.”
Scott said the suit doesn’t surprise him and this form of intimidation and blatant disregard for the community has been the MO of the company building CPV from the beginning.
Citizen left over 6,000 public comments on the permitting process for the VLP leading the New York DEC to temporarily deny Millennium the 401C Water Quality permit they needed to build the pipeline. But then the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stepped in and usurped the the state of New York saying the DEC waived its rights to decide on the permit because they took longer than the year time limit mandated by law.
The DEC countered that the original application received from Millennium was incomplete and their decision was made within a year of receiving a completed application.
The DEC and FERC are now battling it out in court, but the Second Circuit Court lifted a temporary stay on construction in December, allowing Millennium to begin the tree clearing despite the threat to the eagles’ habitat.
Opponents of the plant are calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to rescind the permits and pull the plug on CPV for good and on all fracked gas infrastructure in the state.
Cuomo banned fracking in New York and in his 2017 State of the State address he said “The State must double down by investing in the fight against dirty fossil fuels and fracked gas from neighboring states.”
But he has yet to come out strongly against CPV and other fracked gas infrastructure, leading many New Yorkers to say he is failing to walk the talk of a true climate leader.
“We’re about to plug New York City into 40 years of fracking,” said Scott. “This is a fossil fuel. So, yea, we do frack here in New York State.”
In addition to the local impacts, CPV plant will cover our planet with 4.7 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.
Much of that comes from leaking methane, the main component of fracked gas. Dr. Robert Howarth of Cornell University estimates that over the total lifecycle of the fracked gas used at the CPV plant, from extraction to consumption, 10 -12% methane will leak.
If just 3% leaks throughout its lifecycle, fracked gas is worse than coal for our climate.
Scott has two young kids and worries about what kind of planet they will be living on if New York State continues to build fracked gas power plants. The CPV plant is nearly complete and one of the most powerful industries in the world is trying to silence him, but he remains optimistic the community can stop it.
“Mario Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo’s dad, shut down a nuclear power plant that was built and operational,” said Scott. “So the ‘too late” argument has never sat well with me.”
Follow Protect Orange County on Facebook for updates on Scott’s trial and NYS vs FERC.
Reposted from Medium.