Ben Adler has posted an article in Grist detailing the rise of blockades against Spectra's AIM pipeline in the Northeast. Despite Spectra's spokesperson's rote statements about "clean, reliable, domestic natural gas," Adler notes that "new pipelines are actually less safe than older ones. Pipelines built in the 2010s have been failing at about three times the rate of those built from the 1950s to the 2000s." Sane Energy Co-Director, Kim Fraczek, who was arrested as one of the Montrose 9, says, “New York state has outlawed fracking because of health and safety issues; we need to consider that the infrastructure is just as damaging to our health and safety as much as the drilling is.”
Things are always jumping at Sane Energy Project, but this past Fall season has been particularly active, with the successful campaign against Port Ambrose in full gear, the Resist AIM campaign taking off, plus so many events, rallies and forums! Here are some highlights:
We Won Port Ambrose!
We celebrated the Port Ambrose veto with all the allies who helped defeat the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas project. It was a sweet win after an intense two-year battle that included getting the NY City Council to pass a resolution against it, innumerable hearings, community meetings, rallies, press conferences, email and postcard campaigns– plus lots of work behind the scenes to win over electeds throughout Long Island and the rest of the state. This concerted, coalition effort was rewarded when Governor Cuomo vetoed the Port on November 12th, and then in December, the Long Beach City Council presented advocates with a proclamation on behalf of the local community. Such wins are so rare and treasured that Naomi Klein invited Co-Director Patrick Robbins to write an article about the experience on her blog,
[facebook url="https://www.facebook.com/saneenergyproject/videos/1064931996874137/" /]
The campaign leading up to the defeat ran hot and heavy from Labor Day on, rallying massive turnouts–from hearings on Long Island to street performances in front of a Broadway show where Governor Cuomo held a fundraiser.
Resist AIM Launched
Sane Energy Project has supported the efforts of local organizers to lead a campaign of Creative Peaceful Resistance (CPR) against the construction of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline, since its approval by FERC over the objections of the public, and the start of tree cutting. These efforts have involved hosting frontline residents at forums throughout Westchester and NYC; promoting their pledge to resist, facilitating art builds, media outreach, and organizing support teams for blockades. Co-Director, Kim Fraczek, was arrested with local advocates at the first blockade on November 9th. Because of Sane's alliances, there were even corresponding blockades using inflatables on the same day in Westchester and at the Paris COP 21 talks!
We REVed it Up!
The statewide REV (Reforming the Energy Vision) has been a big focus for us this Fall: "Make REV R.E.A.L (Renewable, Equitable, Accountable and Local)" started with a banner for a joint Sierra Club/Sane rally, then became the clarion call for the Energy Democracy Alliance, of which Sane is a member (logo, below, courtesy of Sane's artistic powerhouse, Kim Fraczek). There was a packed house at the REV hearing at NYU on October 27th, calling on the Public Service Commission to stop supporting fracked gas and coal infrastructure and replace these polluters with offshore wind and solar.
And there were so many other events!
We led off our new bi-weekly Sane Energy volunteer meetings with trainings for the Port Ambrose and REV hearings; we supported the Blued Trees art project; we presented the YOU ARE HERE map at Seneca Lake, we screened THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING and connected the global climate crisis to local fights with environmental justice speakers; and our Climate Rider, Lorna rode nearly 400 miles to stop climate change, and we threw her a big fun party!
(There was so much more that we can't fit in here, and that's why we encourage you to keep up with us daily on Facebook, where all the late-breaking news and events across the state are posted!) We so look forward to doing more great advocacy with you in 2016! If you would like to support the work we do, please click here!
The holidays are considered a great time for slipping in major infrastructure projects (it's a tradition for FERC to drop 1000-page Environmental Impact Statements, or for projects to get signed off while they think no one is looking). But we're on our toes and we're keeping the pressure up on the DEC and Governor Cuomo to deny the 401 Water Quality Certificate that is the last piece of paper the builders of the Constitution Pipeline desire. If they don't get it soon the window will close on their opportunity to start clear-cutting forests (restrictions on the timing exist due to migratory bird laws).
What needs to happen?
Call, write and email the governor and the new DEC Commissioner RIGHT NOW! These next two days before New Years are crucial. Here's how to do that: CLICK HERE.
Why is this important?
Because lives and livelihoods hang in the balance. A large swatch of land and the communities in the path of this pipe will be subject to multiple harms: the pollution from compressor stations; the risks from mud slides and flooding after forests are clear cut; the destruction of clear, cold streams that are trout habitats and a foundation of the local economy, just to name a few. Perhaps the best illustrations of the issues are these personal stories, of families whose property has been taken by eminent domain for the private profit of this company.
Photos and text developed by Stop the Pipeline and People, Not Pipelines
The Hubert Family
This is Diana and Phil Hulbert and their granddaughters Rebecca, Michaela and Dakota by their home in East Meredith, New York. Diana and Phil have lived here in the northwest Catskills since 1972. This year, the Constitution Pipeline Company used eminent domain to obtain permanent easements across their property.
Here’s how Phil describes his family’s situation: “FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) granted easements for construction of this pipeline across our property. If the pipeline is built, portions of wooded land next to our home will be clear-cut. Making matters worse, a second proposed pipeline would cross even closer to our house, taking more of our forestland. Our quality of life and that of many other New Yorkers will be forever altered during and after construction of this 124-mile-long pipeline. Where is the wisdom in turning pristine land and watersheds into permanent corridors for moving fracked gas—a nonrenewable resource—out of the country?”
This is Jeff Strassenburg and his golden retriever, Ixtapa (aka Pumpkin), in Sidney, NY. They're standing next to the solar panels that power their house and car. If built, the large-diameter "Constitution" and NED pipelines will run a few thousand feet from their home, transporting fracked gas under high pressure from Pennsylvania to Canada for export.
This is Bruce Baxter, one of many enterprising landowners along the route of the proposed “Constitution” pipeline. He has made a living growing Christmas trees on his property in Bainbridge, NY, for more than 30 years. He also has plans to raise trout year-round using a solar-heated aquaponics system—an endeavor that would create several permanent local jobs. The pipeline company claims it would bring seven jobs to central New York. In fact, it would take more jobs than it brings. Their pipeline would ruin Bruce’s tree-farm business and render his new trout business impossible.
“Constitution boasts that construction jobs will be created for a few short months when the pipeline is built,” says Bruce. “But no one should get a temporary job by stealing another American’s land and putting them out of business.”
The pipeline company has been granted the power of eminent domain to take Bruce's land for this fracked-gas export line.
Dan and LJ Brignoli
This is Dan and LJ Brignoli standing on the route of the proposed “Constitution” pipeline, next to their home in Davenport, New York. If built, the pipeline would clear-cut more than 700,000 trees, including hundreds just uphill from Dan and LJ’s house. Here in the flood-prone northern Catskills, the couple has seen their road destroyed three times by raging floodwaters in the past decade. Without tree roots to hold the soil in place, the next big flood would be catastrophic.
In exchange for situations such as the Brignolis’, you’d think New York might be getting a lot of cheap gas. However, the majority of the fracked gas in this 30-inch-diameter line would travel from Pennsylvania to Canada and beyond. Even more unbelievable: The pipeline company has been awarded the right of eminent domain to take the Dan and LJ’s land for this export project.
“Eminent domain is defined as the power of government to take private property for a bona fide public need,” says Dan. “In the case of the Constitution pipeline, eminent domain is being used for corporate GREED instead of public need.”
This is Alicia Pagano with her daughter, Janice, on their property in Sidney, NY. The 30-inch-diameter “Constitution” gas pipeline is slated to cross the creek behind them about a quarter mile downstream. Alicia was born and raised in these foothills of the western Catskills. In her 86 years, she has lived through several “100-year” floods, including three in the past decade alone.
"Water is a powerful thing," she says. "With every flood, Carrs Creek transforms from a quiet stream to a raging torrent. It pushes heavy rocks, huge trees and anything else in its way as it careens toward the Susquehanna River. It's even taken large swaths of our land. In a competition with the creeks up here, pipelines will always lose."
Chris and Tim Camann
This is Chris and Tim Camann with their dogs, Amelia (left) and Munchkin, at home in Sidney, New York. Nearly four years ago, the Constitution Pipeline Company informed the couple they would be installing a 2½-foot-diameter high-pressure pipeline next to their home and through their field and forestland. The company claimed it would bring cheap gas to New York and the northeast. In fact, this proposed pipeline is slated to take fracked gas from Pennsylvania through New York State to Canada for export, which will lead to higher prices here.
The company behind this scheme acquired the necessary portion of the Camanns’ land using eminent domain. Chris and Tim will still be required to pay taxes on land they can no longer use while the pipeline company profits from it for years to come.
Despite the unjust use of eminent domain and the danger of the massive pipeline, what devastates Chris and Tim most is how it will damage the woods and creek behind their home where they walk with their dogs every day. The couple has cared for their mature hillside forest for more than 25 years. Heavy machinery will clear-cut through these woods, leaving a treeless corridor at least 110-feet wide. Crews will bulldoze and excavate through the creek and its tributaries and blast through the rocky terrain of the Catskill foothills, forever degrading the forest-and-stream ecosystem.
The AIM pipeline sparks multi-state resistance.
When you think about the kind of person who would blockade a backhoe with their body, Nancy Vann might not be whom you’d picture. Mild-mannered to the point of needing frequent reminders to speak up, her fine-boned body is surgically pieced back together after a long-ago car accident that left her walking with a cane and merits a handicap-parking permit. The former financial services lawyer is a homeowner in the Reynolds Hills community near Peekskill, New York.
This bucolic bungalow colony had been a peaceful place until the recent arrival of tree cutting equipment, brought in by Spectra Energy to clear a route for their Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline. The pipeline path comes within fifteen feet of one of the Reynold Hills cabins and borders several of the backyards there.
Residents here have larger concerns than their own backyards: Nancy and other advocates are deeply concerned about the wider impact of the pipeline, which would cross two fault lines, the Hudson River, and on the west and east sides of the river, rail lines that carry, respectively, “bomb” oil trains and propane trains.
Compressor and pigging stations that are part of the project would spew emissions over a wide swath of residences, schools and playgrounds. The pipeline would run through New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to a Massachusetts hub that would connect shale gas supplies from Pennsylvania to an export facility in Nova Scotia.
The biggest worry, however, is that the high-pressure, forty-two-inch-diameter pipe would pass within one hundred and five feet of critical equipment that is part of the Indian Point nuclear facility. An accident there would devastate a wide area, including New York City.
The tree cutting taking place now at Reynolds Hill is in preparation for pipeline construction. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran a pro-fracking campaign against Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014, has allowed Spectra eleven months to cut trees on county parkland. Had Astorino opted to give the company twelve months, it would have triggered a legislative vote.
Reynolds Hill Resistance
Just after dawn, on Thursday, Nov. 19th, Nancy saw a tree cutting crane making its way towards her house. Realizing there was no one she could call in time to stop it, she walked outside and placed herself in the path of the cutter, under one of the larger trees. She was later joined by her local city councilwoman, and several other advocates.
According to recommendations printed on the tree cutting crane, a distance of 300 feet should be maintained between the machine and people. Nancy remained on her own property, and therefore could not be arrested, but her proximity led to a work stoppage for the day.
On Friday, the crews returned, this time with chainsaws. Eight advocates who’d signed a pledge of resistance joined the protest, including Jess Rechtshaffer, who climbed one of the trees. For unknown reasons, on this day, the tree cutting crane did not maintain a 300-foot distance to the demonstrators.
A worker operating a chain saw began cutting trees within five feet of protesters. An arborist friend, someone who is familiar with how to take down a tree, urged them away, saying it was too dangerous to remain so close. Police at the scene did not interfere with the tree cutters and moved demonstrators back to a safe distance. Recounting the incident, Nancy said, “People got killed in the Civil Rights movement; you don’t stop because you could get hurt.”
A photographer documenting the scene was struck by branches, captured on video by NBC News 4. The protest was also filmed by CBS News and Westchester's News 12, and ongoing coverage has been provided by Patch.com.
After two-years attempting to engage FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), as well as town, county, state and federal officials, residents in Peekskill and other Westchester communities who feel that Creative Peaceful Resistance (CPR) is now their only remaining option, recently formed Resist AIM.
Resist AIM organized last week's early-morning blockade of a ware yard in Montrose, from which Spectra workers launch their daily tree-cutting activities. Nine were arrested, and all pleaded “not guilty” at their arraignment this past Friday. Like the fishermen who blockaded a New England coal ship in 2013, the advocates feel they are acting out of necessity; on the principle that their actions prevent a greater harm to the larger society. December 11th is the next court date for the Montrose 9, as they are now called, and a $10,000 legal fee must be raised (contributions may be made at the SenRG website––notate donations as “Fight AIM.”)
Like the We Are Seneca Lake (WASL) blockades, Resist AIM expects to run an extended campaign against the pipeline. The WASL model of themed blockades (mothers and grandmothers one day, faith leaders another) has been picked up by many allied groups fighting infrastructure.
Opposition is fierce throughout New England
The Westchester groups are only the latest to join a resistance that has already been active along the route of the AIM pipeline. To date, there have been sixty-seven arrests in the regional fight against Spectra. Groups such as SWRL (Stop the West Roxbury Lateral) in Massachusetts, CVC (Capitalism Vs. The Climate) in Connecticut; BASE (Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion) and FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas) in Rhode Island, have dogged Spectra for more than a year. CVC member Bernardo McLaughlin locked down to Spectra equipment at the Chaplin, CT compressor station on November 16th, delaying construction for three hours. And as of November 14th, Spectra has halted construction on the Roxbury Lateral until at least next spring, moving SWRL members to call for its members to support other Spectra fighters.
Like the Westchester groups, FANG started out leading letter writing campaigns and visiting elected officials, before launching a direct action campaign. FANG Member, Sherrie Andre, was arrested last May for a tree sit to block expansion of the Burrillville compressor station. A large-scale mobilization is planned in Rhode Island for December 4th and 5th.
Mutual support among pipeline fighters is spreading along the eastern seaboard: FANG Northeast is networked not only with Westchester groups and the Northeast Pipeline Alliance, but with groups in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. BXE (Beyond Extreme Energy), the DC-based group that most recently organized a hunger strike in front of FERC offices, is supporting the AIM resistance and other front-line community efforts. And mainstream organizations such as New England chapters of the Sierra Club and 350 are joining the battle against pipelines as well.
The Empire Strikes Back
But homeowners and advocates aren’t the only ones turning up the heat: Dirty energy companies––finding themselves blocked at multiple points along a given project––have taken to claiming restitution, such as the $30,000 fine imposed on three FANG members after a lock down halted work crews for three hours this past September. (FANG’s legal fund can be found at their website.)
Pipeline builders often make "donations" to local police, fire and civic organizations, by way of engendering support for their projects. Rumor has it that Spectra has been making payments to the local Peekskill police force. Westchester and Peekskill police have been stationed at both ends of the Spectra construction area at Reynolds Hills since tree clearing began, with nighttime search lights so bright it is difficult for drivers to see the road. Last weekend, one officer appeared on private property, apparently "checking on" a community meeting. Senior Peekskill police at the scene promised that there would be no further incidents of that type. While it is proper that officers enforce laws that protect property, the question is whether the presence of a high-spending corporation affects the protection of free speech and assembly by law-abiding citizens.
Whether such harassment tactics are abandoned could depend on how the public responds. Recent media coverage has brought plentiful negative publicity to Spectra for pursuing actions against ordinary citizens defending their homes. The builders’ tactic of eminent domain is highly unpopular, especially among conservatives.
Adding to Spectra's woes is the recent study released last week by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, which found there is no need for additional gas pipelines, and that less expensive, less carbon-intensive options–especially efficiency measures–would be more effective in ensuring energy reliability. The study contradicts builders’ claims that the pipe would bring cheap energy to New England and lays bare their ambitions to use the line to reach export terminals further north.
Where are we now?
This is a turning point. As awareness builds, and having been burned by a gamed system run by industry-friendly agencies such as FERC, citizens are losing patience working within regulatory boundaries. Like Nancy Vann, people who never considered it before feel compelled to offer a direct response.
Earlier human rights struggles moved society from a place where oppressive behaviors and policies were accepted and commonplace, to being looked upon as barbaric. Women, minorities and LGTB community members were once legally and socially ostracized as lesser human beings, a concept that civilized society now rejects. How then can it be acceptable to treat those who live near where energy is extracted, stored, or transported as collateral damage in the service of perpetuating the use of climate-destroying fossils fuels?
In the context of a world that has already warmed one degree, allowing the continued harms to human health, the taking of private property, and the harassment of resisters is not only barbaric, but insanely self-destructive. People like Nancy Vann and other advocates who engage in peaceful resistance against dirty energy are–like the suffragettes, civil rights marchers, and Act Up leaders–a vanguard of ordinary people caught in an historical moment not of their own making, who nonetheless stand up for their inherent rights, and push to change the whole of society for the better.
Reynolds Hills photos courtesy of Erik McGregor
This morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed Port Ambrose, the contested marine project that has threatened a prime offshore wind lease area with a proposal to install a liquefied natural gas facility off the shore of New York and Long Island.
Advocates from Sane Energy Project and All Our Energy celebrated the announcement.
Sane Energy Project attended the announcement, where Governor Cuomo thanked local officials and "the advocates," whom he said have fought "for years." Among his objections to the project, he cited super storms, risks to fishing industries, and security concerns. "We know that NY is at the top of terrorist targets." The governor also noted the conflict between the LNG port and the wind farm, saying, "There was no thought given to how the two projects could coexist."
Long Island's stellar beaches also figured large in his decision: "I came over by helicopter from the north, and these beaches are one of the great treasures of the state of New York–an international gem– when you see that strip of sand, there's nothing like it."
The Governor closed by saying, "It was not worth the risk and we're going to veto Port Ambrose," to loud and sustained applause.
Assembly Member Todd Kaminsky, who has been a tireless leader against this project, thanked the governor for, "Understanding that renewable energy is not something we want to get in the way of."
The Assemblyman then presented Cuomo with one of the famous "Polar Bear" sweatshirts, explaining, "We have a tradition in our town every Super Bowl Saturday, where we run into the ocean, and if you're going to protect Long Island, then you, Governor, are also a Long Beach Polar Bear!"
As a member of the wide coalition that has fought this project for the past two years, Sane Energy Project applauds the governor's action, and wishes to thank the hundreds of advocates and dozens of elected officials who opposed this project and brought their considerable influence to bear.
One cannot underestimate the importance of two local resolutions, one in the City of Long Beach, spearheaded by Council President, Anthony Eramo, and the New York City Council Resolution, sponsored by then-Chair of the Environmental Committee, Donovan Richards, as well as the State Legislative sign-on letter, organized by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, and co-signed by more than 50 colleagues. The leadership of multiple bi-partisan County, Town, State representatives, and even federal Congresswoman, Kathleen Rice, hosted numerous community forums, press conferences and events in Long Island and the Rockaways, and have been a powerful force leading to this decision.
And the people power of everyone who signed postcards and petitions, called their councilperson, attended rallies, testified at hearings, held hands on the beach, painted banners, printed tee shirts, and told their friends about this insane project, is what impresses us the most. Thank you for everything you did to stop this project; you are the real leaders here.
The solidarity developed between NYC, Long Island and upstate because of this fight will lend momentum to the push for offshore wind, the kind of energy project we really want for this location. As a sample of that solidarity, here's a quick video diary of some of what happened between the January 2015 hearing and last week's hearings:
Combined with recent statements by both the director of BOEM (The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) and NY State Energy Czar, Richard Kauffman, this death knell for Port Ambrose opens the real possibility to develop the long-awaited project previously known as the "Rockaway Wind Farm" and now called the "Long Island - New York City Offshore Wind Project," a partnership of Con Ed, LIPA and NYPA.
The postcards we had printed to ask for the Governor's veto will now be used to THANK him; please pick up a handful at any of our upcoming events.
The Governor's announcement was widely picked up by media:
This is it–Today begins the final phase of the review of Port Ambrose LNG. In case you missed any of the newsletters, facebook posts, or events building up to these hearings that have been happening over the last several months, below is a handy round up of the info you need to respond. We've also included a photo album of just a FRACTION of the effort that has gone into stopping this project over the past two years. Our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all the thousands of volunteers who have taken part in the rallies, art builds, postcard campaigns, petition drives, beach leafletting, community meetings and more, and to the elected officials who have shown leadership on this issue. It ain't over yet, we have until December 21st to get a veto on this, so stay tuned for what comes next after the hearings!
The New York hearings are tonight and tomorrow night, Nov. 2nd and 3rd, in Long Beach, NY, from 6-10pm each night. Long Beach is easily accessible by public transport and there are buses leaving Manhattan later today as well.
Click here for a summary of all the transportation, talking point and other hearing details. Don't forget to pick up a handful of our new postcards to mail to Governor Cuomo, because his 45-day window to veto this project begins Friday, Nov. 6th, and we'll be keeping up the drumbeat after the hearings, including vigils in front of his NYC office. Please check in at our Facebook page for the late-breaking news and announcements, and for photos from the hearings. We'll see you there!
Many are familiar with the Canadian artist who stopped an oil pipeline from crossing his property by copyrighting the top 6" of his soil. Now, an American artist has been tapped by a team of advocates hoping to do the same with the Spectra AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market) pipeline. The high-pressure AIM pipeline would transit within one hundred and five feet of the Indian Point nuclear facility. In February 2015, a group of New York State residents, responding to the abuse of eminent domain that has already been demonstrated by pipeline companies (such as Williams, the builder of the Constitution pipeline), and is threatened by Spectra in the multiple states that AIM would cross, decided to take action. They enlisted eco-artist Aviva Rahmani, who created the Blued Trees Symphony–an installation on private land, along the path of the proposed right-of-way, in Peekskill.
These trees, which were slated to be chopped down, are marked with a sine wave, a musical note, in non-toxic buttermilk paint that is semi-permanent. Together, the "notes" form a symphony, which is copyrighted.
[vimeo 133593842 w=500 h=281]
“We need nature - now nature needs us.” – Nancy Vann, property owner
Blued Trees asserts the language of the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), for the moral rights of the art over condemnation of private land. In Peekskill, pipeline construction would threaten the rights of Blued Trees. The art cannot be destroyed by moving, or otherwise destroying the trees with which it was created, without infringing on VARA. Protecting Blued Trees as a work of art will test corporate eminent domain takings in the name of “public good” in the judicial system. If that copyright suit is successful, it could impede the proposed AIM expansion.
Would you like to participate in Blued Trees?
HELP MAKE WAVES: The more trees that get painted, the more visible and powerful this artwork will be. Already, others have started painting trees on their property. Any willing landowner may join the “Greek Chorus,” as part of the Blued Trees Symphony, by painting a wave “note” on one tree or more, preferably roadside for visibility. You may be along the route of the AIM pipeline, or another pipeline. How beautiful will it be to see these trees popping up all over the Northeast, and how will the public respond when they learn what these mysterious painted trees symbolize?
Instructions for mixing the buttermilk slurry and painting your own Blued Trees can be found here.
Send a photo of your “blued” tree with GPS coordinates to Rahmani, who will continue -- throughout 2015 -- to gather and map all the Blued Trees.￼￼ Contact: Aviva Rahmani 207 863 0925 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Photos by Linda Leeds, Erik McGregor and Susan Rutman
When we learned that our pal, Lorna Mason, was planning to do the nearly 400-mile cycle from Bar Harbor to Boston, we were mighty impressed. After all, that's like biking from Manhattan to Montauk – 4 times! When she then said she planned to do it to benefit Sane Energy Project, we were floored. It's a privilege to be honored by such an amazing and fierce climate warrior.
The Climate Ride is an annual event that brings attention to the warming of the planet, and the particular ride she will do, along the northeast coastline that is threatened by sea level rise, pipelines, LNG ports and tanks, and already suffering the effects of ocean acidification, has particular meaning for us, as one of the founders of the Northeast Pipelines Alliance.
We met Lorna at another group we helped found, the NYC Grassroots Alliance. As a member of the Zen Center of New York City and its Earth Initiative, Lorna invited Sane to come speak at Zen Center about Port Ambrose LNG, and soon their members were writing letters, sending postcards and attending hearings to try and stop the project. The latest iteration of this community partnership is Climate Ride Northeast.
Says Lorna, "I ride my bike a lot around NYC, and I long for the day when ALL car drivers respect riders and when the cars they drive don't emit any toxic exhaust. And really that day doesn't need to be far off. Clean energy solutions are already available, we just need to create the political will to get us there. That's why I am riding in the Northeast Climate Ride and raising money for Sane Energy Project. I've been aware of Sane for the last couple of years and have been amazed by their fearless and intelligent pursuit to end fracking and the infrastructure that supports it, as well as their grassroots organizing to bring us a 100% sustainable energy future."
Climate Ride Northeast begins on September 17th in iconic Bar Harbor, Maine, then heads south through Acadia National Park, and along Maine's rocky coast, dotted with quaint harbor towns, lighthouses, and wild blueberry patches. The next two days are spent pedaling along Maine's Mid-Coast region with a stop in Portland. The fourth day pedals from Kennebunk to New Hampshire's 18 miles of scenic shoreline before the final day: A beautiful ride into Boston, Massachusetts where riders will retrace, in reverse, Paul Revere's famous midnight ride of 1775. ("Climate change is coming!") Join us in Boston on September 21st to greet Lorna and all the Climate Riders as they arrive!
Please support Lorna and follow along as we post about her training from now until she leaves for Maine! This is a great cause; 100% tax deductible donations can be made here. About half the funds received will go to cover support for all the cyclists and the great work that Climate Ride does year-round; the rest will go to Sane Energy Project to support our climate work.
On July 13th 2015, a large community of residents showed up, with an appointment, to Senator Charles Schumer's Peekskill office to deliver almost 24,000 petition signatures to stop Spectra Energy's Algonquin Interconnect Market Pipeline (AIM). Along with the petition signatures, the community invited Senator Schumer to attend Wednesday afternoon's Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hearing where Nuclear expert Paul Blanche will speak about the danger of the proximity of a high pressure gas pipeline adjacent to the aging nuclear power plant, Indian Point. To add insult to injury, Spectra Energy proposes to the expansion project to transverse the Hudson River and travel near two fault lines. This puts the lives of not only local residents in danger, but the entire region which exceeds 20 million people.
Senator Schumer and his aides, left for the day before the scheduled appointment, and left residents outside to speak to the press: LHV_07-13-2015_AlgonquinPipeline_LC_10PM.mov.
Residents decided to take action and walk into the office to deliver the petitions and the invitation to 2 young interns at the front desk who were left after Senator Schumer and aides decided to not be present at the office. The interns took detailed notes of our concerns, accepted the petition signature and invitation to the NRC hearing.
After the action, the Sane Energy team joined local families to go to the site, just feet away from their homes. The community is surrounded by old growth trees, medicinal herbs, and raspberries that burst in your mouth with sweet-tart flavor. We documented a few of the residents with the YOU ARE HERE map pin to feature on the interactive online map of fracking infrastructure in New York. Visit www.youarehereNYmap.org to see the extent of fracking infrastructure in New York State. We will soon be working with our neighboring states to expand the map.
We MUST stop this pipeline.
Scoping meetings for the 5-state NED (Northeast Energy Direct) pipeline by Kinder Morgan/TGP have been announced. These are the first of several more hearings that will take place over the course of the review. Click here for dates, locations and suggestions for filing comments at this stage of the review. To view an interactive map of this pipeline please click here. For more information about the project click here. For information about the track record of the builder and the reviewing agency, click here. For an overview of other proposed shale gas projects in New York State, click here.
It's been a productive first half of the year: We're excited about the success of City Council resolution #549 and the growing groundswell of opposition to Port Ambrose, as well as opportunities coming up with offshore wind, the REV process and the state energy plan. Here's a brief roundup of what we've been up to lately at Sane Energy Project: JUNE
Sane Energy Co-Director Kim Fraczek was honored as a Climate Hero by the Human Impacts Institute, along with many of our heroes, such as Wendy Brawer of Greenmaps, at a gala at the French Consulate. Kim also recorded a session with Green Gotham that will air later this summer.
Outreach this month moved outdoors and out of the city: We hosted a Port Ambrose orientation at Patagonia, then hit the beaches to leaflet along the south shore of Long Island. We spread the word about infrastructure at Clearwater weekend with our friends fighting the Constitution and AIM pipelines. YOU ARE HERE presentations in Staten Island and Orange County covered a wide range of upstate issues as well as Port Ambrose.
A group of allies presented NYSERDA with a report card even when they cancelled their public meeting on the state energy plan last minute. We returned a second time for the rescheduled hearing and are evaluating the now-released plan. Final report card forthcoming. We ended the month by co-hosting a roundtable on offshore wind with our friends from Citizen Action, bringing together more than three dozen folks from around the state to talk about how to support the development of a renewable energy industry that could benefit the entire state.
Jane's Walk, an annual event by the Municipal Arts Society, kicked off the month. This year's walking tour was hosted by a variety of art and artists from the new Whitney museum, and ended at the back door of the museum, on top of the pipeline vault, in a tug of war between Spectra execs and Jane Jacobs herself.
May 14th saw the passage of the NY City Council resolution against Port Ambrose that we all worked so hard for, as well as the introduction of the Indian Point resolution. Complete story here.
May also saw work begin on America's first offshore wind farm, the so-called "Rhode Island Project" (which will eventually supply wind power to both Long Island and New England). This pilot project is crucial to the development of wind power on the east coast.
Josh Fox and Lee Ziesche's travelogue highlights a different map each week. The YOU ARE HERE map was featured as the Map of the Week in May. The map has 137 "dots;" with each dot opening a pop-up box that explains the infrastructure project at that site, and links to the local group fighting it. As Josh and Lee note, "We’ve toured to many of those dots and have seen the strength of the communities there." Stops along the tour that are points on the map: Seneca Lake, where Josh was recently arrested; Wawayanda, near Middletown, where they attended a rally against the CPV power plant; and in Schoharie County when the Solutions Tour highlighted the Constitution pipeline fight. As Lee says, "If these projects are allowed to continue, it’s game over for our planet–meaning whether there is an infrastructure dot over your house or not, we are all here."
We made presentations about shale gas infrastructure to the Village Independent Democrats, the Hudson Guild, Rockaway Wildfire, and Sustainable Warwick. Our travels took us to Long Beach, Rockaway, and City Hall fighting Port Ambrose; to Tarrytown for the NRC Indian Point hearing, to Rosendale to work on the Pilgrim Pipeline; and to Syracuse to teach artivism. We took part in Surfriders' Hands Across the Sands event, which was focused on stopping Port Ambrose and offshore drilling.
Finally, over the Memorial Day weekend, to prep for the FERCUS rally, Kim led a team to paint a 50-foot banner that was used to blockade FERC and is now touring the region with various activist actions. Click here to see the complete photo set of the FERCUS art build.
The month started with the City Council hearing on Port Ambrose where Sane Energy Project presented a 4-part power point. The Port Ambrose campaign continued with lots of postcard writing events, rallies, and a town hall presentation in Oceanside where a banner painted by local teens had its debut.
We had a bird dog rally at Governor Cuomo's Harvard Club fundraiser on April 13th, demanding he veto Port Ambrose. The April 21st rally at his Manhattan office, part of the three-day Rising Tide action, was a huge success, with a Port Ambrose tanker squaring off against wind turbines. Co-Director Patrick Robbins was interviewed at the rally for Democracy Now.
A lot of action was generated around the Spectra site in the West Village, where the opening of the new Whitney Museum was another chance to bring attention to the infrastructure build out in NYC and to what's at the other end of the pipe. Meanwhile, Clare Donohue demonstrated the YOU ARE HERE map in a webinar on fracktivist tools hosted by the Halt the Harm network.
Kim helped Riverside Church prepare artwork for an Earth Day mass, and we took part in the Earth Day Fest at Union Square and at a City College improv performance.
The month ended with the NECOS conference, bringing together climate and pipeline fighters to Massachusetts from all over the Northeast.
The tragic gas explosion in the East Village was a reminder how devastating any gas accident can be and why we should be rapidly replacing our city's aging infrastructure with renewable energy. Our statement on the explosion here.
Kim presented at both the Shale Justice Convergence and Shale Justice Spring Break in Pennsylvania, and was invited to lead an activist art forum at Pratt Institute. Patrick presented about Port Ambrose at the Island Park and Baldwin Civic Associations as well as the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, and the Manhattan Young Democrats. And another YOU ARE HERE presentation went off in Spencer, NY. The press conference announcing the Port Ambrose resolution was covered by Newsday, the Long Island Herald, and NY1.
See the Reportback for January and February here, and the media round up for April through June here.
Most photos by Erik McGregor
"In the end, there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that would adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and that address the scientific uncertainties and risks to public health from this activity. The Department’s chosen alternative to prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the best alternative based on the balance between protection of the environment and public health and economic and social considerations."
Beautiful words from DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, on page 42 of his findings statement, which is the legally binding document he promised he would draft last December 17th when Dr. Zucker completed the Public Health Review.
The findings statement is a 43-page document that lays out the history of the nearly seven-year review, and the alternatives considered. The DEC did consider alternatives that would have allowed parts of the state to be fracked, or fracked with different materials, or mitigated in various ways. However, they chose the "No Action" alternative, meaning that HVHF will not proceed.
From page 5 of the statement: "The Department has determined that there are potential significant adverse environmental and public health impacts associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations. Even with the implementation of an extensive suite of mitigation measures considered by the Department and described in these findings, the significant adverse public health and environmental impacts from allowing high-volume hydraulic fracturing to proceed under any scenario cannot be adequately avoided or minimized to the maximum extent practicable in accordance with SEQRA. In addition, as further described below, significant uncertainty remains regarding the level of risk to public health and the environment that would result from permitting high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York, and regarding the degree of effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures. Consequently, and due to the limited economic and social benefits that would be derived from high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the No-Action alternative is the only reasonable alternative consistent with social, economic and other essential considerations. The Department is therefore selecting the No-Action alternative. These findings will apply statewide."
This is a victory for all of us who worked so hard to make this happen, for everyone who had been at risk from the potential harms of fracking on their neighbor's land or via a lease they may have unwittingly agreed to. Of course, all the other harms of fracking remain a risk, especially the pipelines, compressor stations, storage caverns, water withdrawals and other support systems. The same public health concerns that apply to fracking apply to such infrastructure, and we continue to push for a halt to this build out for the same reasons. But right now, along with the other decisions that were achieved last week, this is a moment to celebrate!
CONGRATULATIONS! On Thursday, May 14, 2015, after months of grassroots campaigning, calling and nudging by advocates, the NY City Council unanimously passed Resolution 549, sponsored by Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, Donovan Richards, calling on Governor Cuomo to veto Port Ambrose. At the time of the oral vote, which had no dissenting or abstaining votes, there were 32 co-signers, who are listed here.
Thank you to everyone who has tirelessly engaged on this campaign, we are making real progress! And there's good news on many legislative fronts:
At the same Council meeting, a resolution demanding the closure of Indian Point, also sponsored by Chair Richards, was introduced.
These resolutions, while legally non-binding, should have a strong influence on both Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio in deciding policy, especially when taken together. The City Council and the Mayor already agree on a plan to reduce the city's greenhouse gases 80% by 2050. These two resolutions, along with recent legislation being considered and passed, such as the new air quality regulations and the "Lights Out" bill, as well as solar rooftop initiatives, signal a real commitment to seeing that goal achieved. This is the kind of progressive action we need if we are to impact climate change at all, and it's a marked difference from the prior administration.
What happens next? With Port Ambrose, we are using the current "clock stopped" moment to continue organizing and widening the circle of awareness. The 45-day window when the adjacent governors have the opportunity to veto Port Ambrose won't open until the final Environmental Impact Statement is released and the final public hearing happens. That could occur any moment now but it may be weeks away (the last time the "clock" was stopped several months went by). The governor needs to see a big engagement from his NYC and Long Island base, so we'll want to follow up this resolution with events that make visible the opposition to Port Ambrose, such as the Hands Across the Sand action in Long Beach on Saturday. Please join us and stay engaged by connecting with us on Facebook and via our newsletter. (Subscribe to the newsletter by clicking the link in the right-hand column to "follow" this blog.)
We'll support our friends and advocates on the Indian Point resolution as they now campaign for co-signers on that initiative. Despite the recent fire, and the approval of the AIM pipeline in close proximity to the nuclear plant, both of which served as a reminder to how vulnerable NYC is to accidents at this aged and partially unlicensed facility, this reso faces a tougher battle for passage. Stay tuned for updates.
MOMENTS AGO, Resolution 549, asking Governor Cuomo to veto Port Ambrose, passed in a vote held by the NY City Council Committee on Environmental Protection. That means it will now go to a floor vote at Thursday's main City Council meeting! We're up to 30 cosigners now! Well ahead of the 26 signers needed to pass the measure, but can we get that number even higher? Please join us at City Hall Park at 12 noon on Thursday for a pre-meeting event. We'll greet council members as they arrive to thank those who have already signed on, and encourage the rest to vote YES on Reso 549! Please gather at both the east and west entrances of City Hall plaza; look for Kim, Patrick or Clare when you arrive. Please bring photo ID to gain entrance. We'll ask you to hold thank you signs and greet the council members as they arrive, so bring your biggest smile! We'll go inside when the meeting starts (at 1pm) to watch the Reso get passed!
MORE LEGISLATIVE GOOD NEWS: Last week, the anti-TPP Resolution passed in the Council. PLUS, a resolution to shut down Indian Point will be introduced on Thursday as well. Given the fire this past weekend, that couldn't come a minute too soon. Don't miss this important day at City Hall––see you Thursday!
Late Tuesday night, a surprise art action took place at the site of the soon-to-open Whitney museum, bringing attention to the Spectra pipeline, the vault of which sits below the building's cantilevered design. The action was organized by a collaborative of international art and environmental groups, who have sent an open letter to the Whitney, asking six questions. During the action, The Illuminator projected a film onto the building's blank walls, pointing to the pipeline and showing scenes of earlier protests when the pipeline had been under construction, plus storm scenes from Hurricane Sandy (video above). The screening was followed by a symbolic ribbon cutting with special guest, Frida Kahlo of the famed Guerrilla Girls.
Sane Energy Project was founded because of the Spectra pipeline. Together with Occupy the Pipeline and multiple other community and anti-fracking groups, we fought the project for two years, in the courts and on the streets. On the day the pipeline went into service, in 2013, fourteen of us, including the local Councilman, were arrested for blocking traffic on the West Side Highway.
For us, it is important to remind the public, who may wish to visit the museum, of what sits beneath it, and why this pipeline, and the decision by the Whitney to site its new home there, are such a bad idea. Therefore, we were proud to be a part of this action. Here's a full recap:
A new website, created for the action, contains a crash course video of the issues and a copy of the open letter to the Whitney. The letter asks six questions of the Whitney and invites them to a public assembly, hoping that representatives of the museum will take part in a dialogue on art and fossil fuels.
The ephemeral nature of the action continued with a "light graffiti" performance, by artist Vickie DaSilva, on the steps of the museum, captured by time-lapse photography (below):
Artists also contributed to an "opening exhibit" for this particular inauguration, using the Whitney's collection for inspiration and tying the issue of fracking to the pipeline (see sample images, below). As Sane Energy Project Coordinator, Kim Fraczek, reminded the assembled crowd, we must be aware of what's happening "at the other end of this pipeline." Kim spoke of families who must hold bake sales in order to buy water to replace their poisoned wells.
Response to the action was widespread and controversial, including coverage by The New York Times, ArtForum, and multiple art, enviro, and architectural media (see sampling of links below):
The New York Times: The Whitney "has yet to open its doors in a new location in the meatpacking district, but on Tuesday night it unwittingly played host to its first radical art exhibition."
Gothamist: "Renzo Piano’s power-plant-like design for the new museum building makes for a perfect movie screen, allowing the mobile-projection team behind The Illuminator to project slogans and images of catastrophic storms onto the façade."
Popular Resistance: "Artist-activist Kim Fraczek reports that the goal of the artful protest was to 'engage the public to ask questions about fossil fuels, our future and what roles our institutions should play in leading us to a renewable future rather than succumbing to more fracked gas.' ”
Hyperallergic: "Frida Kahlo, a founding member of the renowned feminist art group the Guerrilla Girls, took part in the renegade ceremony." She said, "Museums have always overlooked big political issues, because their money comes from those powers that create those problems, and that’s why we really need to be the eternal thorn.”
Some media commenters were confused by the action, noting that the Whitney is not the operator of the pipeline. That's true, the museum did not build the pipeline, however, they did agree to house irreplaceable art (that will draw millions of visitors) on top of it. The organizers of the action hoped to draw the Whitney into a dialog about those decisions and their consequences, but so far, the trustees have remained mum.
The museum has now taken a page from Spectra's own playbook, issuing the same dogged reply to any media inquiries as to whether they are concerned about the safety of the pipeline, saying:
"Although the Spectra pipeline does not cross directly onto the Museum’s property, we followed the progress of the work because of its proximity to the site. Governmental regulators, who oversaw and monitored the pipeline’s construction, are responsible for ensuring that the pipeline’s ongoing operation meets all applicable standards and requirements."
A museum spokesperson has also stated that the art will be housed on the fifth floor of the museum, apparently concluding it will be safe there. The Whitney's statements, their understanding of blast radiuses, as well as their faith in regulatory agencies, have been refuted by Sane Energy Project (here and here are two responses). Just to emphasize how reckless those regulatory agencies are, note that they approved a second Spectra pipeline to be built adjacent to the Indian Point power plant.
Although we'd like to be celebrating the addition of any new art space to our city, it's hard for us to stomach the extravagant galas and red carpet events the opening of this museum is certain to bring, when we think about friends in upstate New York who live near one of the new compressor stations such pipelines have spawned, or families in Pennsylvania now raising money for a lawsuit against drillers.
These friends are now ill from exposure to emissions, and trapped in homes whose property values have plummeted, without relief from any government agency. This scenario has been repeated anywhere fracking has happened; the lives of ordinary people destabilized, their health at risk, their financial future uncertain.
This is why we felt we needed to bring attention, once again, to the Spectra pipeline. We could not be silent as the Whitney opens on top of it.
On March 12, The Villager published an account that detailed some of the concerns raised about the imminent opening of the new Whitney Museum, which sits directly above the Spectra pipeline. Sane Energy's response to the article refutes Spectra spokesperson Marylee Hanley's by-now-tired line about Spectra being built to "meet or exceed federal regulations," explaining exactly how lax those regulations are. Our letter to the editor was published one week before the East Village gas explosion, an accident whose scale would be much greater if it happened with a pipeline the size and pressure of Spectra's.
Above, the Sane Energy team at the site of the Spectra pipeline, with the new Whitney museum in the background, just across the West Side Highway in Manhattan.
To The Editor: Re “Gas pipeline protests no longer burn, but could problems flare in future?”
Thank you, Ms. Stukane and The Villager for steadfastly following the story of the Spectra pipeline from the early moments of the review process through now, when the Whitney Museum is about to open on top of it.
We are eager when any new showcase for art opens, and support the cultural and economic boost the Whitney will bring to the West Village; and we are cognizant of the lack of real estate to build museums in Manhattan.
However, the choice to site anything so close to the Spectra pipeline is a choice we find utterly lacking in judgment. We wonder how this decision came to be.
Building the Whitney on top of the pipeline puts visitors, workers and irreplaceable art, not to mention a Renzo Piano creation, at risk. The museum’s spokesperson appears to express no worry, saying that the art will be stored five stories above the pipeline and that they are “trusting that the appropriate government agencies will stay on top of it.” Such trust is misplaced.
In the event of an explosion at the site of the vault, a crater at least the size of the museum itself is likely, and would affect an area about a block and a half in radius; with smoke, broken glass, closed streets and secondary fires affecting a much larger radius.
When a pipeline of similar size and pressure exploded in San Bruno, California, in 2010, it blew a crater four stories deep, and destroyed 38 suburban houses. Being five stories higher will do little to save the art or anyone viewing it. One wonders if the museum is adequately insured.
As for protection from the agencies charged with oversight, the federal regulations that Spectra’s spokesperson, Ms. Hanley, is so fond of referring to require internal inspection for corrosion only once every seven years. The 24-hour monitoring she refers to is done by remote computers in Texas. Such remote monitoring has been shown to fail on many occasions.
Secondary monitoring may be done by someone walking the route of the pipeline looking for dead grass or plants. (Gas leaks kill the roots of plants.) One may notice that most of the area stretching from Gansevoort Peninsula to the Whitney consists of the West Side Highway and sidewalks. In other words, it’s paved.
The Whitney is hardly the only institution that looked at the risks of the pipeline and shrugged. There are many businesses in close proximity to the route of the pipeline, including the Standard Hotel. The Friends of the High Line declined to take a stance against it when the pipeline was under review. One wonders what motivated them to put their own interests at risk the way they did.
In fairness, shouldn’t businesses and institutions be able to trust when regulatory agencies declare a project safe? The reality is they can’t, and they shouldn’t. The reality is that such agencies review projects with the interests of corporations in mind, not the interests of the public.
The Hudson River Park Trust, under the leadership of then-Mayor Bloomberg’s companion, Diana Taylor, saw to it that the easement for the pipeline was approved in a disgraceful display of influence over intelligence and for a pittance.
Bloomberg, with close ties to fracking founder George Mitchell, wanted the city to convert to shale gas and made sure this pipeline was built, over the objections of thousands of New Yorkers.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that approves (and they always approve) pipeline projects, reviewed an environmental impact statement that was paid for by Spectra Energy. FERC declared, in the final environmental impact statement that not to approve the pipeline was impossible because to do so “would not meet the needs of the Applicant” (Spectra).
I am quoted as saying, “At this point, there isn’t anything more we [Sane Energy Project] can do,” as far as legal action to stop Spectra from operating this particular pipeline. However, there is plenty we can do — and continue to do — to educate the public and elected officials about the dangers and climate impact of pipelines and the use of shale (“natural”) gas, which contributes to climate change and sea level rise with an effect that is 86 times worse than carbon dioxide.
Sane Energy Project and our many allies continue to advocate for the city to halt the building of any additional fossil fuel infrastructure, and advocate for this city to build only renewable-energy infrastructure. We continue to advocate for an energy system that is democratically decided and takes the public’s input seriously. We remain hopeful that Mayor De Blasio is truly committed to his “80 by 50 plan” — to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 — and that he will discontinue the shale gas build-out that his Republican predecessor began.
– Clare Donohue Program Director, Sane Energy Project
Here at Sane Energy Project, we feel strongly that offshore wind is what New York ought to be building right now, not short-sighted and damaging fossil fuel infrastructure that will impede the development of renewable energy. Here is the powerpoint we presented at the City Council hearing on Resolution 549 on April 1st, 2015. It's a PDF so please be patient while the link loads.
Video of the Sane team presenting at the City Council hearing:
What was it and what you missed: The hearing is a step along the process of bringing Resolution 549 to a floor vote with the entire City Council. The reso asks Governor Cuomo to veto Port Ambrose, and will be an important signal from his downstate colleagues and voters. The hearing was jointly held by the Committee on Waterfronts, chaired by Deborah Rose from Staten Island, and the Committee on Environmental Protection, chaired by Rockaway Councilman Donovan Richards. We hope it will come to a full-council vote next month (we'll alert you when the date is confirmed) but right now we still need to get 12 more signers (here's who to call).
Representatives from both sides of the issue were invited to testify, but only two pro-Port Ambrose speakers were brave enough to show up: a gentleman from from Rockaway who touted gas as cleaner than oil, and Richard Thomas, Mount Vernon councilman and head of NY Area Alliance, an odd-duck pro-gas/pro-Indian Point/pro-renewables group created in partnership with lobbyist/macher, Jerry Kremer. The speakers were treated with respect by both the Chairs and the audience, but were let off the hook not at all, as when Chair Richards asked Thomas, "Have you contacted Liberty Natural Gas and requested them to move Port Ambrose closer to your community?" (Answer: no.)
The balance of speakers were in support of the resolution, highly informed, and covered a range of topics from economic to environmental. Bruce Ferguson from Catskill Citizens explained the economic unfeasibility of the project, pointing out that LNG imports are down 90%; Jose Soegaard of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance noted the issue of "entrainment" (vast amounts of sea water being sucked up by the ships, which kills millions of marine larvae and eggs); and Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action discussed the invaluable ecosystem that is the NY/NJ "Bight," with 5 of the only 7 species of sea turtles in the world making our area their home. The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan group that held a forum that included a Liberty rep, spoke of the terrorist risks of Port Ambrose. Anthony Rogers-Wright noted the skewed Rockaway census data used in the dEIS, which failed to count Hispanics as minorities, thereby avoiding a more stringent assessment required for Environmental Justice communities.
NRDC, Surfrider, Sane Energy Project and several others focused on the case for offshore wind over LNG. (Our power point presentation can be viewed here.)
Many of these issues were detailed in an open letter to Bronx council members (none have yet signed on to Reso 549) written by Bronx Climate Justice North and published in today's Riverdale Press.
Many others spoke eloquently (see photos below) and then there was a song performed in lieu of spoken testimony (a first, as far as we know, in Council Chambers) which caused everyone in the room (including at the dais) to whip out their cell phones. We'll post the video of the full proceedings as soon as it's available.
We've been to quite a few public hearings at this point, but this may be the first time we would describe the experience as "fun." The New York City Council, at this point in time, just might be the most progressive elected body in the country, especially the Committee on Environmental Protection, chaired by Councilman Richards. Compared to the dictatorial and top-down manner of the prior administration, this Council is out to change things up, operating in a way that is radically different, astonishingly open, even downright joyful. It's not quite an OWS meeting, but the committee does encourage use of Occupy-style "twinkle-up" approval signals at hearings, rather than disruptive applause. And when Councilman Corey Johnson spoke, he mentioned his arrest at the Spectra Pipeline (along with a few Occupiers).
This ain't your grandpa's Council. The open and engaging style of this committee at first came as a bit of a shock to anyone used to the old guard, beginning with Councilman Richards inviting advocates to a roundtable meeting at the start of his term, asking what was on their minds, and reviewing suggested initiatives. Combined with participatory budgeting, this is a rare opportunity for the public to get involved in our own democracy.
Port Ambrose is just one issue but we are impressed with the responsiveness this council has shown thus far. The resolution is one of the initiatives we asked for at the roundtable; now it's making its way through the City Council! Every time we encounter council members, they are calling for renewables and an end to fossil fuel addiction. They seem to want the future we want.
Whatever issue is close to your heart, we highly recommend jumping into civic participation; now is the time. Plainly put, if you're not engaging with this city council, at this time in history, you're missing all the fun!
Below, various snap shots from the hearing and pre-hearing rally, courtesy of Kim Fraczek:
Our heartfelt sympathies go out to anyone who has been impacted or injured because of yesterday's explosion in the East Village. The accident was tragic, devastating–and entirely predictable. The unfortunate truth is that gas infrastructure is not safe. In 2014, there were at least eighteen separate accidents in the United States involving gas pipelines, including the explosion in East Harlem that killed eight people and injured dozens more.
For years, New York City has been intensifying its reliance on gas and encouraging the buildout of gas infrastructure. Because of this trend, we have repeatedly argued that another gas accident in New York City was only a matter of time. We are enormously saddened to see these predictions proven true.
"Natural" gas is often sold to the public as "clean," a "safe alternative" to coal or oil. But gas is a fossil fuel like any other. It leaks, it explodes, and it has a devastating impact on our climate. Methane, which is the chief component of "natural" gas, has 86 times the impact of carbon dioxide on our climate over a 20-year scale. In the short term, this gas puts us at risk for terrible tragedies such as the East Village explosion, while in the long term it sets us on a course for an unstable climate and planetary disaster.
We can't stand this any longer. We have to move to a socially just and fully renewable energy system. While our hearts are heavy, today has only strengthened our resolve:
- Replacing old gas infrastructure with new gas infrastructure is not the answer. The answer is replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
- At the local level, we must support ongoing attempts to move the city onto renewable energy while continuing to push for climate action plans that are ambitious, timely and contain specific steps to get to the 100% renewable future we want and need.
- At the State level, we must call for further funding for wind energy and a veto on projects like Port Ambrose that will lock us into further exploitation of shale gas.
- At the Federal level, we must disband the sham regulatory agency known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and institute a system of oversight that is truly accountable to the people.
Again, we express our sadness for those affected by this accident and stand in solidarity with all communities that have been put in harm's way by the fossil fuel industry. It doesn't have to be this way. We pledge to continue to work with New York City to make sure tragedies like today become a thing of the past.
–Sane Energy Project