Occupy the Pipeline: Resistance Grows
From Washington, D.C. to Texas; from Susquehanna County, PA to New York City, resistance to new pipeline construction is growing. Tree-sitters and other resisters are doing their best to block deforestation in Texas right now as part of the movement against the Tar Sands XL Pipeline which would bring heavy crude from Canada to Texas to be processed. In addition to immediate destructive impacts on water and land, the Tar Sands extraction is widely understood to mean “game over” for climate, if allowed to proceed.
Meanwhile, the Spectra Pipeline showdown in New York City is gaining in fame and energy. Spectra pipeline resisters are determined to confront the dangers of radon and fracked gas. In order to stop the pipeline altogether, Occupy the Pipeline activists are deploying new tactics, from “Danger” signs and public education to direct action and a “frack mob” wearing green body paint which performed an expressive Butoh ballet at the Spectra construction site in the West Village in early October.
Writing in the Guardian (UK), Naomi Wolf described the unusual street performance and explains,
While the health hazards at the point of fracking are well-known, I was not aware of hazards on the consuming end of using fracked gas. According to Occupy the Pipeline, the fracked gas threatens New Yorkers because gas produced from Marcellus shale has 70 times the average radioactivity of natural gas and very high radon content. The trouble… is that it was not one of the issues looked into by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when it analyzed the pipeline project. The commission asserted that radon risk assessment was “outside their purview”, said [Occupy the Pipeline activist Patrick] Robbins. But the element has been linked to increases in the risk of lung cancer among non-smokers, claims Occupy the Pipeline, and poses a special risk to New Yorkers with immuno-compromised systems the moment the gas is burned – dispersing the radon.
Other health and safety concerns with fracking are linked to precedent, such as the undrinkable groundwater at Dimock, Pennsylvania, or the explosion from a pipeline of similar size and pressure in San Bruno, California in 2010 that claimed the lives of eight people.
There’s no question that methane (“natural” gas) is deadly, both as an explosive gas which regularly claims the lives of utility workers and firefighters, as well as residents — and as a greenhouse gas which spews into the atmosphere during all phases of shale gas drilling, including the flowback from fracking phase, accelerating climate change. But this information about radon exposure at the consumption end is probably new to you, as it was to the Guardian’s Naomi Wolf. A thoroughly footnoted analysis published by Marvin Resnikoff, PhD, of Radioactive Waste Management Associates, “Radon in Natural Gas from Marcellus Shale,” concludes,
Our results: the potential number of fatal lung cancer deaths due to radon in natural gas from the Marcellus shale range from 1,182 to 30,448. This is an additional number of lung cancer deaths due to radon from Marcellus Shale over deaths from natural radon already impacting New York State homes and their residents.
Opposition to pipeline construction in Pennsylvania is also growing steadily. Residents of Susquehanna County, PA turned out to testify against the Constitution Pipeline, which activists are calling the Unconstitutional Pipeline, during a hearing on the massive Williams Compressor Station last month. Advocates recently fought FERC and won a last-minute extension on, and a public hearing for, the Constitutional Pipeline (for which the Williams Compressor Station in PA is the beginning point).
PA DEP has made it clear they have no intention of regulating, or even requiring honesty from, Williams regarding its compressor station. DEP is allowing Williams to claim their compressor station (compressor stations are essential components of pipeline infrastructure for fracked gas) would release “only” 98,810 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, thus successfully flying under the radar of EPA. EPA GHG regulation is only triggered when 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases are expected to be released by any one facility. PA DEP is not even re-calculating Williams’ math.
Want to get involved? Whether you are an experienced campaigner, direct actionist, polite and persuasive lobbyist, writer, educator, or a new activist just getting oriented, you can find your way in to campaigns against fracked gas and oil pipelines now. Plan to attend the Constitution Pipeline hearing on October 24th from 7 – 10 pm, at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center Atrium, 24 Market Street, Oneonta, New York 13820. If you can’t be there in person, make sure to submit comments by November 9th demanding further review of, and opposing, the Constitution Pipeline. Your comments can draw on Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s extensive work, excerpted here. Please also organize your own solidarity action on October 24th. The time to transition away from deadly fracked fossil fuels is now, not thirty years from now. The science is in. The math is done. We are already past the climate’s carrying capacity for greenhouse gas emissions and must now de-escalate, instead of escalating, humanity’s war against our own climate, our own health, and against the thousands of species now going extinct every year.
Victories are emerging as resistance grows. In addition to the temporary, but significant, victories won in the U.S. against the XL Tar Sands pipeline, two pipelines have been shut down: Gasoducto del Norte in Puerto Rico and Northern Gateway in Canada. There is nothing inevitable about new pipeline construction, any more than slavery, child labor, or legalized rape in marriage was unstoppable. Jobs related to energy efficiency and conservation; renewable energy; public transit; and conversion to a non-fossil-fuel-based food economy will far outweigh the relatively few jobs brought by the frackers’ last stand, but only if large-scale public political will is brought to bear.