Resist Spectra Trial continues in October with Necessity Defense

For 18 hours on October 10, 2016 Resist Spectra did what thousands of New Yorkers had been calling upon New York State to do- they shut down construction of Spectra Energy’s (now called Enbridge) AIM fracked gas pipeline…

Two years later on October 23, 2018 three individuals who crawled into the pipeline, David Publow, Rebecca Berlin and Janet González, represented by attorney David Dorfman, will present the Necessity Defense to Judge Kimberly Ragazzo claiming that their ‘illegal’ actions were necessary to prevent a greater harm.  

Like all fracked gas pipelines, Spectra/Enbridge’s  42 inch AIM pipeline poses serious risks to nearby communities if it were to leak and explode. After a fiery week in both PA and MA, where multiple explosions on similar pipelines evacuated tens of thousands of residents, destroyed homes, and killed a man, Peekskill residents around this pipeline have heightened distress that their government has done nothing to protect them after years of advocacy proving this pipeline is a danger. Not far from where Resist Spectra halted construction, the pipeline goes within four hundred feet of Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School.

“If something happens with that pipeline, at 400 feet we’re looking at a fatality rate of 100%,” said Courtney Williams, Peekskill mom and PhD cancer researcher. She is actively working to appeal to Governor Cuomo’s administration to halt the flow of gas in Spectra/Enbridge’s AIM Pipeline next to her children's school.

But what makes the Spectra/Enbridge AIM pipeline possibly the most dangerous pipeline in the United States is its proximity to Indian Point Energy Center, an aging and failing nuclear power plant located on the Hudson River. The highly pressurized pipeline comes within 105ft of critical safety infrastructure at the plant.

20 million people, including New York City, live in the 50-mile evacuation zone of Indian Point.

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For years, communities along the pipeline route called on New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to halt construction of the dangerous fracked gas pipeline.

The pipeline required approvals from both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

After providing key permits for the pipeline in May 2015, amid ongoing protests and community outrage, Governor Cuomo called for an eleventh-hour independent risk assessment in February 2016.

Choosing to call for a risk assessment instead of using the full power of New York State to actually halt construction follows a pattern communities fighting fracked gas infrastructure have seen often from Governor Cuomo and his administration.

In May of 2016, Gillibrand and Schumer also filed a last minute request with FERC to halt pipeline construction until the risk assessment was completed. But FERC denied their request.

With both their Governor and Senators, failing to take meaningful action to stop the pipeline, the people of New York had no choice but to stop it themselves.

In June 2018, New York State finally released the executive summary of the risk assessment, about a month before the Resist Spectra Trial was about to begin. It confirmed what pipeline crawlers, Publow, Berlin and González, and community members had been saying all along, that the pipeline wasn’t safe.

In July 2018, the Resist Spectra Trial began with three other individuals, Kim Fraczek, JK Canepa and Judy Allen also facing trespassing charges for supporting the action to halt pipeline construction.

The trial took on national implications when Cortlandt Judge Ragazzo ruled they would be allowed to present the necessity defense, meaning that the defendants’ actions were required to prevent a greater harm.

“The judge agreed to allow us to argue the necessity defense in her courtroom is already a huge victory,” said Kim Fraczek. “Not just for us here, but to all of our allies that are fighting fossil fuel infrastructure across this country.”

After the prosecution presented their case in July, Judge Ragazzo dismissed the charges against Fraczek, Canepa and Allen and postponed the rest of the trial until October because of scheduling conflicts with witnesses.

The Resist Spectra Trial will resume on October 23, 2018 and defense attorney Dave Dorfman will present witnesses that will testify to the facts that the AIM fracked gas pipeline not only poses a threat to the local community but that Publow, Berlin and González’s actions were necessary to stop a greater climate threat.

The fracked gas the Spectra/Enbridge AIM pipeline is transporting through New York from Pennsylvania is primarily methane, a potent greenhouse gas, nearly 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 20 year period. Scientists are finding high leakage rates of fracked gas all the way from the wellheads in Pennsylvania, along pipeline routes, at metering station and compressor stations that move the gas through the pipeline.

This leaking gas poses serious health risks to the communities living near the pipeline infrastructure, as well as to the climate. The fracked gas industry has continually tried to claim to be ‘cleaner than coal’ but climate science says otherwise.

With the executive summary of the risk assessment confirming their greatest fears, the communities living near the pipeline will be watching to see what happens with the Resist Spectra Trial but are also still calling on Governor Cuomo to use the power of New York State to work together with PHMSA, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, to shut off the gas.

We invite you to attend the October 23 trial, and be a crucial audience supporter. Rideshares will be available from the Peekskill train station. Please RSVP here

And keep an eye on Resist Spectra’s https://www.facebook.com/resistaim/ the upcoming Resist Spectra Film & Music Festival at the Beanrunner Cafe to raise legal funds for the Resist Spectra Trial.