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I Cover Northern Westchester Progressives and Activists — # 1 – Buchanan Spectra Presentation

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SPECTRE_Logo littleI went to Buchanan’s Village Board meeting last night. Spectra Energy (Not to be confused with James Bond’s Spectre ) (thanks Becket Feierbach) gave a presentation and took questions. For those who don’t know, Spectre is planning to build a gigantic 42” pipeline UNDER the Hudson River, THROUGH two earthquake fault zones PAST an aging unlicensed leaking nuclear power plant and right NEXT TO the Buchanan-Verplanck elementary school. What could possibly go wrong?

The 300 children and adults at the elementary school will be within the “high consequence area” of the pipeline, meaning that in the event of an explosion, 100% of the humans will be incinerated within 90 seconds.

For a primer on the dangers of natural gas and up-to-the-minute news on the latest explosions, check out the labor of love that is NaturalGasWatch.org.

My friend Kevin O’Neill, intelligently objecting to the use of First Peoples’ tribal names for natural gas infrastructure, won’t call it by it’s official name, the Algonquin Pipeline, but calls it instead the “High Pressure Fracking Gas Monstrosity Pipeline” and points out that Westchester is slated to become a sacrifice zone.

It was one of those meetings where the people in charge of the project wear suits and impassively explain how they know what they’re doing and there’s really no rational cause for concern and “answer” questions by providing as little information as possible and making vague promises to get back with better answers at some later point in time.

It reminded me a lot of the recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission public meeting I went to (where I first met Peter Gross, the new leader of Clearwater.org. And Dr Susan Rubin showed The Plan(?), her movie about evacuating away from the aging unlicensed leaking nuclear reactor and passed out delicious popcorn.)

There was considerable and amazingly well-informed opposition, much of it from the remarkable people at WPP/Spectra Task Force in Cortlandt and Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, including Bernie Vaughey, chairman of the Task Force and two of the founding members of SAPE Paula Clair and Susan Van Dolsen (Westchester for Change). We were hoping for a sighting of Ellen Weininger (Grassroots Environmental Education) but she couldn’t make it.

The Mayor, Theresa Knickerbocker, and most (all?) of the elected officials and all the citizens who spoke at the meeting fell somewhere between serious concerns and unalterable opposition. Like nearly all such energy infrastructure projects, the permission of the local population and their government is not required. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission grants permission to energy companies. FERC tends to authorize pretty much all the projects industry suggests. Though not until after a public comment period. By its own description, “FERC is self-funding, in that it pays for its own operations by imposing annual charges and fees on the industries it regulates.” Should any party have the wherewithal, resources and stamina, FERC decisions can be reviewed by federal courts. The opponents of the Minisink compressor station eventually managed to have their day in federal court. They lost.

One of the citizens who spoke was Jenn Duffy Lauth who characterized her community as including, as does Miniskink, a number of first responders, including 9/11 first responders. And that such people don’t easily give up. As she put it, “I don’t want you to come here because it doesn’t make any sense. You’re going to have a fight on your hands. We’re fighters. We’re the one who go into burning buildings when they fall down. We’re the ones that go in after those kids even if we’ve only got 90 seconds.”

There’s passion and true grit in this crowd of citizens. Their objections run from the noise to the venting of radioactive substances “to atmosphere” all the way through to climate change and any percentage of humans possibly being incinerated. These people are defending their home place. And it is good and right for them to do so.

Looking at the tentacles of this proposed pipeline, running from Pennsylvania to Cape Cod, and having some recognition of the sunk costs and the enormous potential profits involved, and that it has to be continuous in order for the money to flow, it would seem that any community, no matter the passion and grit, has a low chance of success in stopping it. The game is rigged, and whoever has the gold makes the rules.

People working on a scale larger than a single community, like the good people at Sane Energy Project bring up broader questions. How is it defensible to disrupt and endanger the lives of people for private profit, especially when they receive no benefit? Can we revoke the status given to energy infrastructure interests, comparable to that of national-security-scale juggernauts, that grants them permission to do whatever they think best? If climate change is already underway and natural gas is many times more potent at creating it than coal or gasoline, how can we possibly consider continuing to use it, let alone expanding (enormously) our capacity?

What a small but growing number of people are coming to realize is that the passion and grit evoked by threats to Buchanan’s or Minisink’s home place are appropriate to all of us, because all our home places are being transformed into ever higher consequence areas.

2 comments to I Cover Northern Westchester Progressives and Activists — # 1 – Buchanan Spectra Presentation

  • Paul Stark has been documenting many of these local battles against the behemoth gas and oil industry and their partners in DC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Does science really matter? Do the facts really matter? It seems as if FERC is willing to move ahead on the Spectra schedule despite egregious flaws in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. SAPE submitted over 26,000 petitions to FERC and 29 elected officials from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties signed a letter asking FERC to withdraw the faulty document. So far, FERC is forging ahead and plans to submit at Final EIS on Dec. 19. It’s time to get resourceful and you can expect to see action alerts asking everyone to call Senators Schumer, Gillibrand, Representative Lowey and Maloney to ask them to step up and call for independent risk assessments, especially about the risks from Indian Point. Will they protect their constituents or will they protect Spectra?

  • Paul, it was great to see you and march with you in NYC during #PCM on 9/21 and wonderful to know you are back on the beat covering Westchester’s Fracking Monstrosity Pipeline onslaught. (Not to mention Putnam’s, Rockland’s and so many more.)

    I so appreciate you helping spread the word about Spectra Energy’s Texas-style plans to pulse sloppily into New York City’s bucolic northern suburbs. Bubbling and gurgling with radioactive-radon laced #fracking gas in “piggy” fat pipes under enormous pressure. Climbing from PCB infested primordial ooze beside twin sunsetting riparian nuclear monstrosities. On the way, past homes and schools and parks and playgrounds and swimming pools, to a gas-waste extractor, emissions venter and compressor factory.

    Ugh! Yuck! Make it stop already!

    It is disgusting to begin to understand how numerous are these fracking gas pipelines and infrastructure projects. (To get a feel for the ugly sprawl, in NY State anyway, see: http://www.youareherenymap.org/ )

    How sad our fellow Westchesterians will be should they awaken someday to learn of San Bruno style death and destruction among neighbors in Buchanan, or Crompond or Yorktown, or Somers, or Verplank. Or see in the New York Times a troubling story about clusters of cancer among families in North Salem, or among children at Copper Beach Middle School or over at Wooster School in Danbury, just downwind, 2.6 miles to the southeast.

    Maybe “routine” chemical releases from these giant expanded fracking gas compressor stations they’re pushing should be studied better.

    In the meantime… Knock wood.

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