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 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!
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.
Since 2013, Sane Energy Project has been infused with a blast of new energy from our two young coordinators, Kim Fraczek and Patrick Robbins. We are thrilled to announce that they are now stepping into a leadership position: As of today, July 1, they will take on the role of Co-Directors at Sane Energy Project. Clare Donohue will move into a position as Senior Advisor. Kevin O'Keeffe will continue as Long Island Volunteer Coordinator.
We look forward to continuing the great work we've been doing with you, and thank you for all your participation. This is an exciting and joyful change that we hope you will celebrate with us!
Going forward, if you have an event or sign-on letter you'd like co-sponsors for, or questions about Sane, or just want to say hello, Kim and Patrick can be reached by emailing them at: