KNOCK US OVER WITH A FEATHER–TWO PIPELINES DOWN! Amazing news on Earth Day that the DEC denied the Water Quality Permit for the Constitution pipeline. Following close on the heels of Kinder-Morgan pulling the plug on their NED pipeline, it's clear that the power of public opinion, and the work of thousands of Northeast activists, is having direct impact on our energy future across the region. Catch all the details on both defeats HERE–rejoice, take a bow–and then let's redirect all that activism towards the projects that remain. (But seriously, what joyful change is being made!)
In the five years we've been fighting pipelines, a question frequently asked by newcomers who've just learned about the infrastructure invasion is an outraged, "Why isn't the New York Times covering this?!" A good percentage of the population revers this paper as the arbiter of important issues, and reaching that audience is considered a kind of golden ring. It can be argued that the early anti-fracking movement got a huge boost from the groundbreaking series Ian Urbina wrote for the Times. Now, at long last, because of the work you all have been doing, The Gray Lady has caught on in a big way to the scope and power of the anti-infrastructure movement. We celebrate this important milestone.
First the Times published this post, detailing how the AIM pipeline increases concerns about Indian Point, complete with Governor Cuomo's announcement of an independent safety investigation, and his call for FERC to halt construction on the project. Then, on March 19th, this story portrayed the united movement that infrastructure battles around the country have become, observing, "Bound together through social media, networks of far-flung activists are opposing virtually all new oil, gas and coal infrastructure projects."
Reporter John Schwartz catalogued infrastructure fights in Portland, Seneca Lake, and at FERC offices, quoting one advocate who said, “When we pick up the ball and run with it here in North Carolina, we’re well aware of what’s going on in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island,” adding, “The fight we’re doing here, it bears on what happens elsewhere—we’re all in this together."
The reporter also noted the connection the movement has made to climate change, and the push for green energy. Our own Patrick Robbins, whose press release about AIM piqued interest in the bigger picture, was also quoted: “It’s not a bridge to renewable energy—it’s a competitor."
Bill McKibben, whose recent arrest with We Are Seneca Lake advocates was highlighted in the story, called the blockade “a good scene,” noting that it was hardly an isolated action: “There’s 15 places like this around the world today,” McKibben said. “There will be 15 more tomorrow, and the day after that.”
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.
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: