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Rensselaer Unanimous: No Pilgrim Pipelines

July 22, 2016

Rensselaer, NY: On Wednesday, July 20th the City of Rensselaer Common Council voted 5:0 to pass the Resolution Opposing Pilgrim Pipelines, becoming the fourth and final city on the proposed oil and petroleum products pipelines’ direct route to oppose permitting or construction of the pipelines. The cities of Albany, Kingston and Newburgh had already passed Resolutions Opposing Pilgrim pipelines. The Common Council found opposition to Pilgrim pipelines running 21:1 in the city of Rensselaer.

Rensselaer is now the 28th Hudson Valley municipality (including towns, cities and villages but excluding counties) to pass a resolution opposing Pilgrim pipelines due to health, safety, environmental, drinking water, climate and energy policy, and economic concerns. The total proposed Pilgrim pipelines’ length, including laterals, is 352 miles in both states. Both proposed pipelines would be drilled horizontally underneath the Hudson River twice.

Common Council President Brian Stall commented, prior to the vote, “The area [of Rensselaer] along the port is heavily contaminated, DEC [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] wouldn’t allow several tree stumps to be dug up there because it’s too contaminated. If DEC won’t allow tree stumps to be dug up, why would they allow huge pipelines to be drillled and dug there?”

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Rensselaer Resident Joanne Farrell addresses Rensselaer Common Council on July 20th. Photo: Iris Marie Bloom

Five voted “AYE” to the Resolution Opposing Pilgrim Pipelines: James Van Vorst, John DeFrancesco, James Casey, Margaret Van Dyke, and Common Council President Brian Stall.

Two abstained: Dave Gardner, who said he  “wanted to hear from DEC,” and Richard Mooney.

“We have an historic town. This river has shaped the lives of everyone who ever lived here,” said Rensselaer resident Joanne Kathleen Farrell, of Rensselaer Community Action, She told the Council, “There would be five times more oil trains if these Pilgrim pipelines are built, and Rensselaer is in the blast zone [for oil train explosions]. We fish, we boat and we picnic by the river. We may not be the richest, but we’re not tolerating this attack on our environment, our river and our city.”

“A pipeline like this leaks every 30 hours, according to federal data,” Reverend Barbara Toll, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Rensselaer, testified at the Common Council meeting. “Last year, a pipeline like this leaked 60,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. How much oil would leak, how much damage to the Hudson River would occur before we even know?”

“According to PHMSA [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration], there have been 631 pipeline incidents per year for the past ten years,” Reverend Toll continued. “I don’t want this kind of risk for my congregation. Creation care is a faith issue for us. Our climate requires protection. We need a cleaner, healthier future for our grandchildren. In the City of Rensselaer, we can actually say no to this thing. Let’s say no tonight!”

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After July 6th Rensselaer Common Council meeting: Joanne Farrell, Grace Nichols and Andrea McFarland. Photo: Iris Marie Bloom

By passing the Resolution Opposing Pilgrim Pipelines, Rensselaer joins Albany and the towns of East Greenbush and Bethlehem in united opposition to the proposed Pilgrim pipelines throughout the Capital District, in every Capital District municipality along the direct proposed pipelines route. Several Capital District residents also spoke.

Tina Lieberman, an Albany resident, described and countered statements she said Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings LLC’s lobbyist in Albany, John Casellini, had made in Albany: “Casellini assured ‘the latest in anti-leak technology,’ but why are there so many leaks in new pipelines? It’s because sensors don’t go into effect until there’s a major drop in pressure. The Keystone pipeline leaked for a week before it was noticed — and then it took Transcanada ten more days to find the leak. Don’t be bamboozled!”

Lieberman added, “Casellini said in Albany there would be about four to five jobs in our area [with 40 – 50 pipeline jobs spread out from Albany to Linden, NJ]. We can create more, safer, good clean energy jobs. Don’t let them take away our air, our water, what we value most about living here!”

Peter Cook, Executive Director of NYS Council of Churches, representing over 7,000 congregations, testified at the Rensselaer Common Council, “I’m also a pastor for the United Church of Christ, which did a study showing that where people of color live and where there is a higher level of poverty, environmental harms proliferate, causing health harms. These pipelines represent disproportionate risk with no benefit. Please join 27 other cities, towns and villages in passing this Resolution tonight.”

Dave Publow, of neighboring Troy, said, “Pilgrim pipelines is a 19th century project using 20th century technology and does not meet 21st century needs. As to climate, we’re out of time. Each month is getting hotter than the last. There’s no reason for us to bear the brunt of these bomb trains running right next to African American and low-income neighborhoods. This project is toxic, and we need to stop it.”

Albany Flotilla w Pilgrim sign May 13 2016

Kayacktivists at Rensselaer boat launch during Breakfree in May 2016, near where Pilgrim Pipelines would be drilled under Hudson River. Photo: Iris Marie Bloom

At least eighteen people testified at the Common Council meeting. At least fourteen strongly opposed the Pilgrim pipelines.

Four people, including lobbyist John Casellini, testified in favor of the pipelines; at least two of those represented Local 190, calling for construction jobs.

Sue Rosenberg, of Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-Saugerties, said, “We want good union jobs…. I know how hard it is. We need to create jobs building clean energy sources, to fix our bridges and railroads. We are downriver– so a breach in these pipelines would travel in a hurry to us.”

The controversial pair of proposed Pilgrim pipelines would carry Bakken Shale crude oil from Albany to Linden, NJ. Pilgrim’s construction would require an increase in oil train traffic into Albany threefold to fivefold, compared to the current (fluctuating) number of oil trains entering Albany, in order to service the southbound crude oil pipeline.

Our Risk Their Reward CAPP final

Riverkeeper documented the Rensselaer vote here: Capital Region Unanimously Opposes Pilgrim Oil Pipelines

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