Sit Stand Sing: Connecting New York's Infrackstructure Fights

There were no leaves on the trees yet at Olmstead Camp when Lia Oprea showed us where the proposed Northern Access Pipeline (NAPL) would cross her family’s land.

It was April 8, 2019 and two years earlier Oprea and many other Western New Yorkers had been celebrating their grassroots victory against NAPL, a proposed 97-mile pipeline that would transport fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania through New York, with 70% planned for export to Canada.

But their victory was short lived.

A year after the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied National Fuel their permit to build NAPL the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) overturned the DEC decision.

The people of New York had done everything engaged citizens can do. They sent comments to FERC and the DEC. They signed petitions and rallied in Albany.  They challenged the company’s attempts to seize land by eminent domain in court.

But the black snake, as they call it, rose back from the dead and now they’re preparing for non-violent direction action if construction moves ahead.

Despite banning fracking in 2014, many New York communities are in the same position as those in Western New York, facing an expansion of fracked gas infrastructure that threatens their health and safety.

Not all of them see non-violent direction action as the next step in their fight, but all are fighting back.

During the month of June, Sane Energy teamed up with 350.org to travel to some of these communities on the Sit, Stand Sing Tour to train communities featured on the You Are Here Map in a variety of roles to resist fossil fuel infrastructure. 

Most of the infrastructure fights haven’t gotten the same media attention as the bigger pipeline like fights like NAPL in Western New York or the proposed Williams Pipeline near New York City.

In Oneonta, New York, many of the folks who successfully won local fracking bans in their communities and fought off the Constitution Pipeline are now organizing to stop the expansion of the much lesser known DeRuyter Pipeline and a proposed fracked gas decompressor plant.

In Elmira in the Southern Tier seasoned fracktivists are fighting the expansion of the Casella owned Hakes Landfill, which accepts toxic fracking waste from Pennsylvania.

And in Dutchess County the community is fighting to stop construction of the massive Cricket Valley fracked gas power plant (CVE).

Our last tour stop was in Wingdale, New York just down the road from the CVE construction site. Before the training we joined the weekly Saturday picket at the plant.

It had been almost a year since I had seen the plant and how gigantic it has become is still haunting me over a week later. Looking at it, it’s impossible not to become overwhelmed thinking about how many fracking wells it will require, pollution it will cover local community in and greenhouse gases it will contribute.  

And power from the plant is slated to be going to one of the most climate vulnerable cities in the world, New York City, yet few people in NYC even know the plant is being built.

The movement to ban fracking was successful in New York because the state united around the demand that not a single well would be drilled, not a single community would be sacrificed.

But too often these frontline communities have felt isolated in their resistance.

If we are going to stop the build out of fracked gas infrastructure in New York State we must connect these fights. Everyone who protested fracking in their backyard must be willing to stand with the communities fighting the pipelines, power plants, waste dumps and all the other infrackstructure.

If these communities put out a call for action, we must all show up.

That’s what the communities fighting NAPL, the DeRuyter Pipeline, Hakes Landfill and CVE fracked gas pipeline are hoping will happen, that if they put out a call, you will show up.

Visit the You Are Here Map to get connected with the folks fighting fracked gas infrastructure near you.

- Lee Ziesche, Community Engagement Coordinator