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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
Goal: 35 City Council votes for the Port Ambrose resolution!
Chair of the Environmental Committee, Donovan Richards, has written an important resolution opposing Port Ambrose and calling on Governor Cuomo to veto it. The public hearing for this resolution will take place on Wednesday, April 1st. As advocates, we need to support this action by getting at least 35 council members signed on. Let's do that by the April 1st hearing!
Here's a running count of who's signed on and who hasn't. Please check if your rep has signed on already; if they have, thank them! If not, CALL THEM (or write to them using use the email address and sample letter provided).
Background: The City of New York has no official jurisdiction over Port Ambrose, despite it being proposed off our shoreline, however, Governor Cuomo DOES. He can veto it and stop this project cold. To convince him to do so, bi-partisan calls from state and local electeds have been pouring into his office. Now we need Mayor De Blasio to come out against the Port. The Mayor needs to hear a strong message from City Council, so we want massive support for this reso from across the city.
So far 15 Council Members have signed on to support the reso, but we need 20 more YES votes to pass it!
What to do: • Check here to see if your council member has signed on yet. If they have, please call their office and THANK THEM for doing so! • If they haven't, please call or send them a letter (sample here) asking them to sign on before April 1st. • Send a message to Mayor De Blasio asking for HIM to call on Governor Cuomo to veto Port Ambrose. • Attend the April 1st hearing and testify! Council Chambers at City Hall (inside City Hall park); rally at noon, hearing at 1pm.
Photo courtesy of Martha Cameron.
Yesterday was the final day to comment on Port Ambrose and nearly 62,000 comments were filed opposing it! A successful press conference on the steps of City Hall (photos below) featured NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Cory Johnson, affected frontline community members from the Rockaways and Long Island, student reps from NYPIRG and NYC advocates. The story was covered by NY1, News12 Long Island, WNYC, Newsday, and Capitol New York, which reported, "The drumbeat against the facility, a floating offshore loading station in the waters between New Jersey and Long Island, started in living rooms and union halls on Long Island and has gathered mainstream political support. The state's potent anti-fracking movement is also using its network of activists to fight the plan."
What's next? Focus on Cuomo!
April 1st, City Council hearing and rally: Council Member Donovan Richards will host a public hearing on his Port Ambrose resolution. Join us for a rally ahead of the hearing and to testify. Let’s pack the room to overflowing! (Rally at noon, hearing at 1pm at City Hall, Council Chambers.) Help us get enough City Councilmembers signed on to pass this reso before the hearing!
April 13th, Bring our message straight to Cuomo: Join us outside a fundraiser luncheon at the Harvard Club, 27 West 44th Street, from 11:15 til 1pm, to ask the Governor to veto Port Ambrose!
Photos courtesy of Martha Cameron
As Spring starts to peak around the corner, we continue the focus on infrastructure that we've been kicking out all winter. Lately it's been all about the You Are Here shale gas map (click here for upcoming demonstrations of the map), and getting the word out to oppose Port Ambrose LNG (click here for upcoming community events). See our full reportback here, or check out the media clips below. Feb. 14: DeSmog Blog "We have always been primarily focused on making people understand that infrastructure is part of fracking, that fracking is not just high-volume drilling, and that mission continues. Now we shift to making people understand that we aren't “safe” from fracking as long as all the related effects of fracking still exist."
Feb. 4: Capitol NY "Patrick Robbins, with the clean energy advocacy group Sane Energy, asked state officials to ensure that 'low-income, front-line communities,' such as those hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, have a voice in the R.E.V. He and several others also asked the state to set specific goals in terms of renewable power generation and greenhouse gas reductions. 'We have not heard specific targets for renewable energy,' he said. 'The climate crisis demands nothing less than full renewable energy. We need you to put us on the right path.' "
Feb. 2: NY Daily News "Nervous residents at a Marble Hill apartment complex are signaling local officials to stop freight trains from idling on the Metro North tracks below. The activists have gotten even more worked up since the fall, when they spotted black cars carrying hazardous material called liquid petroleum gas on some of the trains."
Jan. 27: The Indypendent "When it comes to finding an alternative to heavy heating oils like No. 6 and No. 4, Donohue said that biodiesel was the best option, especially because researchers in the United States and Europe are developing ways to produce biofuel from plants like grass and algae, which do not need to be cultivated on land that’s suitable for growing food."
Jan. 16: Long Island Herald "Now, officials and a number of environmental groups, inlcuding Sane Energy, the Surfrider Foundation, All Our Energy and Clean Ocean Action, are calling on the U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Coast guard to deny Liberty's most recent application and urging Cuomo to veto it, saying that the terminal would hurt the environment, increase the region’s dependence on foreign fuel and create the potential for an offshore catastrophe or terrorist attacks."
Dec. 19: The Wave "Activist groups, New Yorkers Against Fracking and Sane Energy Project, have been making rounds to inform the coastal public—and everyone else for that matter—about the LNG and its potential dangers. Jessica Roff, of New Yorkers Against Fracking, and Patrick Robbins, of Sane Energy Project, hosted an informational meeting on the Port Ambrose project at the Macedonia Baptist Church in Arverne on Monday, Dec. 15. Robbins noted that the issue 'has particular resonance here when we think about who is impacted by global warming—I mean, that’s coastal communities.' ”
Dec. 31: DC Bureau "Other projects are apt to continue drawing intense local opposition. They include Crestwood Midstream’s planned liquid petroleum gas, or LPG, storage project near Watkins Glen and the proposed Port Ambrose export terminal for liquified natural gas in the ocean off New York City. Here is a map that locates and describes more than 20 New York energy infrastructure projects: http://www.youareherenymap.org."
Dec. 21: Huffington Post "The proceedings included a presentation by Clare Donohue, founding member of the Sane Energy Project. She spoke about energy issues throughout New York State, illustrated by a continually evolving map called You Are Here. The goal of the project is, 'To put a human face on the places at risk or already devastated by fracking infrastructure in New York.' "
Dec. 20: The Rockaway Times "A Rockaway community information meeting was held on the latest metamorphosis on The Port Ambrose project. This meeting about the latest proposed LNG project, just off our shores, was moderated by Jessica Roff of New Yorkers Against Fracking and Patrick Robbins of Sane Energy Project. Each spelled out the same concerns that we faced several years ago when our community and surrounding communities banned together to voice our opposition to the LNG Island off our shores."
Dec 17: Grist “ 'Cuomo pointed out himself the relentless public pressure,' said Patrick Robbins, a spokesperson for the Sane Energy Project, a New York-based organization that promotes shifting from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. 'I also think it’s important to note the role of organizing at the local level—the commissioner mentioned many times the impact that local bans would have on the profit margins of this industry.' ”
Here at Sane Energy Project, we're all about envisioning a future of, um, well, sane energy. Shortly, there will be public hearings held statewide on REV (Reforming the Energy Vision), an initiative that will determine our future energy choices, and it is crucial that we (the public) be well informed in our comments.
REV is a regulatory reform initiative sponsored by the PSC (Public Service Commission), the state-level agency that oversees energy policy. REV will affect all energy users in NYS. Here's what the PSC says about REV: "The Commission is considering a new business model for energy service providers where distributed energy resources becomes a primary tool in the planning and operation of the electric system."
Sound good? YEAH! "Distributed Energy Resources? Gee, that sounds like rooftop solar, wind farms, and community-based decision-making! Or does it mean lots of new gas power plants all over the place?
Here's what PSC say are their six policy objectives: 1) To enhance customer knowledge and tools to enable customers to manage their energy bills and provide them more choice* in how they use energy; 2) To animate the market** and leverage ratepayer contributions; 3) To promote system-wide efficiency;*** 4) to increase fuel and resource diversity;**** 5) to enhance system reliability and resiliency;***** 6) to reduce carbon emissions.******
Still sound good? Ummm . . . Ok, here's what they say next:
"The REV regulatory proceeding involves two tracks. The first track, which has been the subject of two publicly held technical conferences and one publicly held symposium, and now the subject of the public statement hearings, explores the role of distribution utilities in enabling system-wide efficiencies and market-based deployment of DER (Distributed Energy Resources) and load management. The first track will also consider the role of the incumbent electric utilities and whether they should serve as the Distributed System Platform (DSP) provider, the entity that will manage and coordinate DER, as well as wholesale market issues and opportunities for customer engagement. The second track will address the regulatory changes and ratemaking issues that will be necessary to implement the REV vision."
Got that? Yeah, neither do we.
Seeking further enlightenment? Don't look here (The PSC's web page about REV). Hmmm. A public agency requesting public input about obscure regulations presented in an utterly opaque way--what does this remind us of??? (Hint: FERC?)
Happily, there are two opportunities to have this information translated into layperson's terms: A briefing call will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 28th at 8pm. Call: 302-202-1108, Conference Code: 999246. Additionally, an in-person briefing will take place as a prelude to the regular NYC Grassroots Alliance meeting on February 2nd (the night before the NYC hearing). Click here for details. Can't make it to either briefing? Check out this online resource from our friends at AGREE.
For details about the NYC hearing on February 3rd, please click here for the afternoon session and here for the evening session. We hope to see you there!
* PS: Call us cynical, but we have a vague memory of "more choice" being the catch phrase used to sell everything from utility deregulation to health care.
**PPS:"Animate the market?" You mean, make it attractive for investment in infrastructure? Are we talking offshore wind or pipelines here?
***PPPS: "System-wide efficiency? That could be storage systems for solar energy, or it could be networking gas pipelines (see "diversity of supply).
**** Oh F*** it; we're out of PS's! In case it wasn't obvious, whenever the phrase, " fuel diversity" is used, cue the nukes and frackers. Beware the call for more gas-fired power plants to "benefit ratepayers."
***** "System reliability and resiliency:" In our dreams this means that no terrorist could take down the entire Northeast by cyber-flipping the wrong switch and that we'd have enough rooftop solar in place to be back up and running after the next Sandy. Is that what PSC means?
******What about METHANE emissions?
FERC is not the only agency involved in infrastructure projects. Right now it's all about the NYS DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation), which may play a crucial role in whether several projects ever get the necessary permits needed to begin construction:
ALGONQUIN INCREMENTAL MARKET (AIM) PIPELINE EXTENSION Because this pipeline expansion requires new and enlarged compressor stations, the DEC must first issue air permits. The compressors would be located in Southeast, near the NY/CT border, and in Stony Point, in Rockland County.
Submit written comments to: Michael T. Higgins, Project Manager, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Permits, 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-1750, Phone: (518) 402-9179, E-mail: AIMProject@dec.ny.gov
CONSTITUTION PIPELINE Two pieces of good news: 1) The DEC has extended public comment period until Feb. 27th. This could make it difficult for builders to get construction fully under way before the seasonal prohibition on cutting down trees begins. That could greatly delay landscape damage from the project and hopefully the project will be forestalled before the season opens again next Fall. 2) The Army Corps of Engineers, another agency charged with reviewing the pipeline, is concerned enough about wetland impacts to request additional data from the applicant. The Daily Star reports: "Data being sought by the Army Corps includes updated estimates of impacts to wetlands and a final feasibility analysis of site-specific plans for trenchless crossing operations that could impact wetlands. It also specifically asked for plans that would 'avoid and minimize impact' to 'unique and difficult to replace wetlands.' ”
SENECA LAKE STORAGE CAVERNS There are two types of gas storage proposed at Seneca lake: the methane portion is overseen by FERC; the LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas or propane) portion is overseen by the DEC. That part of the project is currently on hold as the DEC studies the plan. A conference is scheduled in February to allow experts on both sides to make their case.
A local judge has already decreed that protestors will no longer have the option of choosing jail time (which was costing the county money) and now requires a stiff fine from all arrested at the blockade. Town officials are going to absurd lengths to prevent a normal democratic process, including locking the public out of judicial proceedings on a sub-zero night, with the excuse of preventing shrubs from becoming trampled.
You are cordially invited to help us unite on our special day and start the next phase of our engagement with Politicians, Leaders and The Public to say No to LNG and"renew our vows" to bring renewable energy to the New York area.
Now that the hearing is over, we have a very short time (only until about April or May) to convince Cuomo to VETO Port Ambrose, so we need to follow up with further action!
Join us for a community meeting to plan outreach to Cuomo and the state and local officials who can demand he veto Port Ambrose.
If you have friends who couldn't make it to the hearing, bring them and we'll get more comments written (remember, deadline for comments is now extended to March 16th).
Sample letters, nosh, soft drinks provided. Supervised art workshop for the kids, so bring the family!
January 20th, 7:30-9pm, Long Beach Public Library, 111 W Park Ave, Long Beach, New York 11561 (Easy walking distance from the LIRR Long Beach Station). RSVP here.
Citizens of New York: You done good! Standing room only at the Port Ambrose hearing in Jamaica, Queens. Gratitude to the more than 400 folks who came out on a freeeezing night! Well-tuned testimonies from both elected officials and citizens ran for more than three hours. A sampling of coverage, comments and photos, below:
Queens Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder opened the hearing by sarcastically thanking the Coast Guard for "doing the absolute minimum" by holding a single hearing in a hard-to-reach locale, noting that "our job as government officials is to make sure the public is heard" and calling the actions of the agencies "unacceptable." NY City Council Environmental Chair, Donovan Richards, whose district covers portions of Queens directly impacted, spoke on the security risks and noted that the project is in opposition to the City's climate goals. Newly elected Long Island Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky said he "knocked on 4000 doors during his campaign and "No one was excited about this project." Long Island doesn't want and doesn't need Port Ambrose. Long Beach City Councilman Anthony Eramo demanded a South Shore hearing and said, "Our energy choices DO MATTER." Local Community Board Chair Dolores Orr asked Liberty Natural Gas, "WHY ARE YOU HERE AGAIN?" noting that their two prior attempts to build LNG off the Long Island coast were for export and were defeated and still, no one wants this project.
Most of the union members in attendance hailed from the Carpenters Local 57 union (because of their obvious stake in an underwater pipeline?). They appeared utterly disinterested in the proceedings; most took their paid-for shirts off and left early without testifying. Almost apologetic when questioned, several (who lived in the area) admitted the project was harmful and said they were "just doing picket duty." One man said he'd been paid $500 to show up. The proceedings were peaceful until very late in the evening when the leader of one union attempted to pick a fight when asked to quiet down. Police removed him and the hearing went on.
Remember Port Ambrose, the LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) marine port that Liberty Natural Gas LLC has proposed for the ocean off Long Beach and Jones Beach? Last July, 2013, a packed public hearing took place at the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach. The vast majority of attendees were opposed to the project and vocal. The town at that point still showed visible signs of the damage from Superstorm Sandy, with many of the businesses not yet reopened. At a community meeting held at the Long Beach Library this past Wednesday night, the city has recovered nicely, but the sentiments against Port Ambrose were unchanged. Sane Energy Project and New Yorkers Against Fracking were invited to present about the project by local advocate, All Our Energy. The mandate from residents has been the same every time we've visited Long Beach: kill the LNG port and build the wind farm.
That's right: there's a wind farm proposed for the same plot of ocean as the LNG port. The choice between clean and dirty energy does not get more direct than this: a wind farm that would actually cut down the force of hurricanes and produce thousands of long term jobs, vs. a greenhouse gas producing monster that's a terrorist target and brings with it 6 (six) long term jobs.
What's happened with the project since last year's hearing? The agencies involved in the review process have repeatedly "stopped the clock" to allow Liberty to supply missing information about the project. The company simply can't seem to get it together: their story keeps changing even on their own website, which used to claim that gas would be delivered in ships from Trinidad and Tobago. Now the website claims they'll be importing gas from the Gulf Coast of the U.S.
This claim that Port Ambrose is meant to import gas from anywhere is an obvious invention. It would not be economically feasible to liquefy gas, load it into tanker ships, drive it up the east coast, then regasify it for Long Island markets, when the Marcellus Shale Play is one state away and the pipeline network supplying Long Island is already proposed for enlargement.
The obvious ploy is revealed by what is already happening with LNG import terminals that are built or proposed: if approved as an import terminal, it could be later flipped to export, which is a trend that's accelerating in the U.S. . Massive floating LNG terminals, such as the ones being developed by Shell and Exxon, are the wave of the future. Land-based LNG terminals, which require a more extensive environmental review, won't even be needed.
The draft EIS for Port Ambrose is expected to be released sometime around Halloween or the November elections. A brief public comment period will then follow, so stay tuned for alerts about the public hearing. After the last public hearing, the NY and NJ governors have 45 days to respond to the proposal. Governors Christie and Cuomo have veto power, they can stop the project.
In response to this looming threat, Sane Energy Project asks all of you to get active! Do you have friends or relatives on Long Island? In the Rockaways? Please let them know!
Let's make sure they ALL call the person with the power to STOP the LNG port and BUILD the wind farm! Call Cuomo: (518) 474-8390
In his book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell discusses several historical examples, from Northern Ireland to the American Civil Rights movement, when public resistance has been spurred (and subsequently succeeded) whenever the powers that be have gone overboard in their ruthlessness, oppressiveness, hubris, or simple ineptness. Such an example is before us at this very moment, playing out in a corner of New York State not previously known for widespread anti-fracking activity. Until recently, something like a compressor station proposal would have gone mostly unnoticed, signed off and built before neighbors had even heard about it. That’s no longer the case. Now, the hubris and ineptness of FERC and the pipeline builders is creating a level of response to infrastructure projects like never before. This is a new era. New Yorkers are wising up to the reality that fracking means much more than drilling.
Here is just one account of a current situation, as told to Sane Energy Project by witnesses:
It was a brisk evening on October 8th when Suzy Winkler, a resident of Burlington, NY, drove out to the tiny community of Georgetown in Madison County, to provide input on Dominion Transmission’s pipeline project. Little did she know that she would find herself in a mosh pit of upset New Yorkers from across the state.
FERC (The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) had booked the tiny town hall to take public testimony on Dominion’s New Market Project, a scheme for bringing another 112,000 dekatherms per day of gas into New York from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania. Shockingly, it was the only scoping hearing that FERC had scheduled for a project spanning 200 miles and involving the construction of three massive compressor stations. Violating fire codes, 200 people—including octogenarians—were stuffed into an overcrowded room with a legal capacity of only 132. FERC even failed to provide amplification, which prevented people from hearing what was said.
While many left because they felt unsafe in the cramped space, Suzy stood for nearly three hours before a seat finally became available. She had gone through too much already just to confirm that the hearing was happening, and get there—an hour drive—to think about leaving. There had been no mention of the hearing on the federal website and, earlier that day, a FERC staffer on the phone repeatedly insisted—falsely—that the hearing wasn’t happening.
Disregard for health and safety, deceiving the public, and preventing people most impacted from being heard—this was not only FERC’s modus operandi for the fiasco on October 8th; it has been how FERC and Dominion have operated from the outset of this proposal. The New Market Project is a major expansion of a fifty-year-old pipeline network that runs through nine counties. By increasing the pressure or velocity of gas in its pipeline, communities along the project’s entire 200-mile corridor would potentially be exposed to greater risk of leaks, fire and explosion. Furthermore, Dominion proposes to build two huge 11,000 horsepower compressor stations in Horseheads (Chemung County) and Georgetown (Madison County) and dramatically expand another compressor station to 18,600 horsepower at Brookman Corners (Montgomery County, near Otsego and Herkimer counties). Equipment modifications are also proposed in Dryden, Utica, and Schenectady.
If approved, the three compressor stations alone would pump a whopping 200,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere every year, in addition to dangerous pollutants that threaten public health—chemicals like Nitrogen Oxides, Volatile Organic Compounds, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide and Formaldehyde. As Suzy puts it, “I‘m familiar with the Brookman Corners compressor station. It’s not that big today, but will become a monster if this goes through. How can Dominion call these 'upgrades' when the air we breathe will be worse?”
Given the project’s scale and potential impacts, you might think that FERC would at least require an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, to fully consider all of these complex issues. You would be wrong. Instead, FERC wants to review Dominion’s proposal through an Environmental Assessment—a much faster and far less rigorous process.
Furthermore, you would expect there to be hearings scheduled in each affected community, especially where compressor stations are proposed to be built or enlarged. After all, shouldn’t each impacted community be given the same opportunity to provide input on a project that could affect their land, health, and livelihood? Not according to FERC.
So far FERC has said it will hold only one additional hearing in the same area as the first dysfunctional meeting, close to just one of the proposed compressors.
Make no mistake about it—people want to be heard. Despite terrible accommodations, the chaotic mockery of the meeting on October 8th lasted past midnight. Moreover, individuals and town boards outside of Madison County—who only recently learned of Dominion’s plans—have filed complaints with FERC demanding additional hearings in their communities too.
Clearly FERC’s system of rubber-stamp approvals and ignoring the public is broken in a way that goes far beyond any one project. But for now, there are three concrete steps that must be taken with respect to Dominion’s “New Market Project:”
• First, the public calls for a 90-day extension of the scoping comment period. The previously announced deadline of October 20th was laughably short.
• Second, scoping meetings must be held in each community that Dominion’s proposal impacts. Holding meetings in only one location for a proposed project that spans 200 miles is simply absurd. The public has a right to participate and be provided reasonable access.
• Finally, it is unacceptable to substitute an Environmental Assessment for an Environmental Impact Statement on a project of this magnitude. The public demands a full EIS to thoroughly examine all impacts and alternatives. The people of New York State deserve nothing less.
Please click here for instructions on how to file the above demands as comments to FERC. Our thanks to Suzy Winkler and Keith Schue for their reporting, and area activists for their attentiveness.
Video of the press conference prior to the hearing with Sandra Steingraber, Ruth Ann Stone, Nicole Dillingham, Keith Schue and Wes Gillingham:
By Patrick Robbins Here at Sane Energy Project, we’ve had a pretty quiet couple of days, you know, nothing big. Except for the premiere of our groundbreaking mapping tool on Saturday, the biggest climate march in history on Sunday, a full day of direct action at #floodwallstreet on Monday and a presentation of the Solutions Grassroots Tour in Brooklyn on Tuesday, you could say it’s been kind of a snore. All joking aside, where do we begin? This was an astonishing, historical couple of days we’ve had. We are so grateful to everyone who came out for any part of it. Check out our facebook page for a compilation of photos and videos of everything. Here’s how it went down, day by day:
SATURDAY: You Are Here. Our new online mapping tool premiered at the Graffiti Church as a part of the People’s Climate Convergence. More than a hundred people showed up at the historic community center. Zephyr Teachout, former gubernatorial candidate and anti-corruption advocate, gave an impassioned speech on why mapmaking is so important–maps tell stories that make sense of our physical environments, and when you control the map, you control the story. Our mission has always been to restore that control to the people, and so we heard from three grassroots activists from impacted New York State communities–Mark Pezzatti, Maura Stephens and Bill Huston–who have been instrumental in helping us build the mapping tool over the last year. And afterward, people were able to demo the map on laptops and tablets. Think about it–more than a hundred people felt strongly enough about this issue to spend the better part of a beautiful Saturday indoors looking at coordinates. Not bad! And there’s more to come; stay tuned for further events and social media on the map in the coming weeks!
SUNDAY: The People’s Climate March. By now you’ve probably seen the statistics. 400,000+ people marched through the streets of New York City, more than 500 buses brought people into town from all over the country. Participants came from all over the world, and solidarity actions took place in 166 countries. As impressive as the numbers are, the numbers can’t convey the whole story–how incredible it felt to see all of our hard work come to fruition, the amazing feeling of walking with other people who are giving everything they have to fight fossil fuels around the world, the wave of sound that surrounded us after the moment of silence, and the incredible outpouring of creativity and art that swept across the city like a people’s storm. The fracking block was BIG, it was LOUD, and it got the message out that FRACKING = METHANE = CLIMATE CHANGE. One of the most impressive aspects of the march was how we kept seeing this message throughout the march, and not just in the fracking block. If you ever doubted that anti-fracking activism is an integral part of the climate movement, the march firmly laid those doubts to rest.
MONDAY: Flood Wall Street. Sane’s Outreach Coordinator, Kim Fraczek, was arrested with 96 others when thousands of activists took over lower Broadway in an incredible act of civil disobedience. People assembled in Battery Park all morning, getting trained in the day’s action and hearing from speakers such as Chris Hedges and Naomi Klein. At noon, the people took the street, stopping traffic across five blocks for nine hours. We don’t know what our favorite moment was–it could have been hearing indigenous voices amplified a thousand strong by the people’s mic across the financial district. It could have been the “carbon bubbles,” the giant inflatable metaphors for our stranded investments in fossil fuels, which the police ultimately destroyed. (How about that? The NYPD is tackling climate change after all!) It could have been singing as one voice, or hearing from Tim DeChristopher, or watching with glee while activists took over a tourist bus. What we do know is that this is the start of a new era in New York City activism, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. Kim explained why she joined the action: “The fossil fuel industry makes pointed calculations on how to break, shape, bribe, create loops and openings in our law so that their profits trump our public health and our democracy. While they play shell games with numbers and shareholders on Wall Street, we see the results: life on the planet is actually dying, our families and friends suffer, our water and our food is poisoned. This is the time to escalate everything we have built in our movement. That includes non-violent civil disobedience on a mass scale.”
TUESDAY: The Solutions Grassroots Tour. We all went over to the Irondale Theatre to check out Bill McKibben (before he had to duck out and go address the UN, that is); John Fenton leading a troupe of actors; folk legends Peter and Bethany Yarrow; and Nahko Bear. Over the course of the night, we got to know families and communities at every point of the fossil fuel life cycle–from rural families who discover to their horror that they do not have any legal recourse against the companies drilling on their land, to the wars fought in the name of industry, to the neighborhoods in coastal areas who have to contend with storms while knowing all along that there’s no one coming to help. After presenting this panorama of how we live now, the Solutions group connected audience members to renewable energy providers and encouraged them to organize among themselves. Renewables, entertainment, empowerment–these really are a few of our favorite things.
Thanks so much again to everyone who helped make the last few days special–this was really a glimpse of a different world, one that gets closer and closer every day!