Route 202, Cortlandt, NY – December 11th – While the eyes of the world are trained on the Climate Talks in Paris, groups across the globe are turning the focus away from negotiators and onto local movements to halt climate change, including one right here in the Hudson Valley. Today local activists and residents set up inflatable barricades to halt construction of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Pipeline as part of a coordinated global protest demanding action during the United Nations Climate Conference (COP21).
The large mylar cubes, marked with a bold red line that artist Artúr Van Balen says represents “the lines that must not be crossed if we are to have a sustainable planet for all,” were made by Tools for Action, a Berlin-based arts collective. The original plan to use these cubes in Paris during the COP21 Global Climate Summit was altered by the November 13th terrorist attacks and subsequent state of emergency that barred protests. Instead of only in Paris, Tools for Action sent inflatable barricade kits to climate-activist groups around the world to emphasize the fact that climate change is a global problem that needs site-specific direct response.
Resist AIM, a coalition formed to halt the construction of Spectra Energy’s massive Algonquin Pipeline to carry fracked gas through New York, was one of the groups chosen by Tools for Action to receive the barricades. Their goal: halt construction of the pipeline that would carry volatile methane gas, endanger health and safety of local communities, and exacerbate global climate change.
This morning, along Rt 202/Crompond Rd, adjacent to Buttonwood Road in Cortlandt, NY a group of activists have deployed the inflatable barricades blocking access to the right of way for the Algonquin Pipeline in order to halt construction of the massive 42” gas pipeline. Two were detained and charged with disorderly conduct.
Resist AIM spokesperson Courtney Williams said, “While world leaders negotiate in Paris, communities across the world are in jeopardy. Spectra is building a massive gas pipeline through NY against the wishes of the people who live here. On a local level, this pipeline will pollute our air and leave us to bear the safety and health risks. On a regional level, Spectra plans to run this pipeline within 105ft of critical structures at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, posing a risk to the entire region. On a global level, the potent greenhouse gas, methane, in this pipeline will exacerbate global climate change exactly at the time we need to be halting it. Stopping this is non-negotiable.”
Gabrielle Engh, a long-time resident of the Hudson Valley who was charged with disorderly conduct during the action, said, “I stand in peace and in solidarity with those who are pledging peaceful resistance against the Spectra AIM gas pipeline in New York State. I stand in peace and in solidarity with the citizens at the U.N. Climate Summit COP21 in Paris who are drawing a “red line” for environmental rights as human rights, and calling for global action for the integrity of future generations on this planet.”
Spectra has faced massive resistance to their poorly conceived plan to enlarge the Algonquin Pipeline system to export fracked gas to overseas markets, with 75 arrests so far in NY, CT, RI, and MA. Those arrests include nine arrested on November 11th in Montrose, NY for blockading the entrance to the Spectra construction.
Nancy Vann of Peekskill, President of Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG) a non-profit formed to fight the expansion project voiced safety concerns. “The race to get this pipeline completed as quickly as possible increases the already substantial risks,” said Vann, referencing recent allegations from former Spectra employees of safety regulations being ignored to speed up the project. Concerns include the route of the pipeline near sensitive areas. In addition to running adjacent to Indian Point, in nearby Verplanck, NY the proposed route would put the 42” high-pressure pipeline only 400ft from Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School. The West Roxbury Lateral in West Roxbury, MA would run adjacent to an active rock quarry with routine blasting.
Paola Dalle Carbonare of Croton, a member of Holy Name of Mary Parish who is participating in the action says, “I’m here as a mother and a Catholic, answering the call of our fantastic leader Pope Francis who is urging us to get to the street and take action to protect Mother Earth.”
Despite objections from residents, scientists, medical professionals, safety experts, and elected officials, the project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and also green-lighted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A coalition of groups submitted a “Request for Rehearing” to FERC asking them to revisit the decision in light of expert safety analysis, environmental impacts, and other issues with the approval process. FERC has refused to rule on that request, leaving citizens with no legal recourse to challenge the decision. Given the risks the project poses on a local and global level, this regulatory failure leaves citizens no other options but to take direct action.
Paul Stark, a Peekskill resident and founder of People Preventing Pipelines, describes the situation this way: “The methane industry has rewritten laws and captured Federal regulators, disenfranchising ordinary citizens and local governments. Action is our only chance to stop this.”
Following on that sense of urgency, when asked what they hoped to accomplish today Carbonare said, “I deeply believe, as per Patty Smyth’s words, that ‘the people have the power to redeem the work of fools.’” Added Williams, “World leaders can talk all they want, but it will be citizens across the world standing in solidarity that will bring about the change we need to save ourselves.”