My Peekskill — # 20 – A Partial Pipeline Victory


Every victory is a partial victory.

school house rock FB cover photoThere are people who have natural strengths that help them succeed in politics. Like being able to make an instant human-to-human connection with just about anyone. Call it charisma, call it the common touch. Call it something I don’t got.

That human strength is just about at the bottom of my list of qualities. By nature I am not good at politics, or persuasion, or sales. By nurture, I’ve just arrived at the point where I can see how far I have to go.

It’s exciting that the impulse I set in motion last month resulted in a resolution unanimously passing the Peekskill Common Council last week. It’s a very good resolution. You can see it here ( It calls for a “comprehensive, independent and transparent risk assessment,” paid for by Spectra, and seeks to protect Peekskill citizens and infrastructure should Spectra decide their process needs explosives.

The resolution I started with was also about political impact and moral leadership. It was rewritten for very sensible reasons, which I wrote about here ( I’m pretty sure the Council is in substantial agreement with what I originally proposed – I was just too much of a political amateur to get it done. Here’s what I didn’t want left out:

– It’s an outrage that we’re disenfranchised by federal law and regulatory agencies. I said in that first meeting, “if they were building a bowling alley, a paint factory, or a slaughterhouse they’d fall under all kinds of City jurisdiction.” But because it’s methane, they can do pretty much what they please. That’s wrong – un-American and anti-democratic. Peekskill should loudly and formally object to this disenfranchisement.

– A rallying cry to greatly expand the popular activation about the pipeline. A call to the community leaders of Peekskill and nearby communities to influence the people who look to them for leadership to become active and engaged in opposition to the pipeline.

– A call on all our federal representatives, especially Senators Schumer (get in touch with him here ( (And, lest we forget, #SpeakUpChuck (I made that up!)) and Gillibrand (get in touch with her here (, to use their power and influence to vigorously oppose the pipeline, to hold congressional hearings on the captured regulatory agencies FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and their irresponsible disregard for the wishes and welfare of all those harmed and endangered by the projects they blithely continue to approve. And to sponsor legislation that undoes the unconscionable privilege the fossil fuel industry enjoys.

– A call to take a leadership role among the surrounding municipalities to stake out similar bold and uncompromising positions.

I haven’t given up, and neither has PPP (here) ( And perhaps part of the lesson here is that it needs to come from us, the grassroots. PPP is founded on the proposition that a lot more people need to get a lot (or at least a little) more active about opposing the pipeline.

Here’s the thing. I started my most recent life in activism trying to raise awareness and foster hope about climate change. The same night the resolution was being voted on in Peekskill I was watching Josh Fox’s latest film (about climate change) and seeing him take questions. What I realized at the screening is that what’s happening now, which wasn’t happening five years ago, is that these issues are starting to break mainstream. There are very serious issues: whether it’s the pipeline, climate change, the TPP, surveillance, politics, corruption, the violence pointed to by Black Lives Matter. Opinions which once would have been impossibly radical – understandings about what’s happening and what ordinary people might do about it – are beginning to seem normal and obvious.

I’m not exactly sure what to do about that. And my lack of political ability isn’t helpful. But I do know a lot of people have gotten to a certain point, or are about to, and are beginning to wonder what’s next. There’s an opportunity here to be deeply responsible to our times and our descendents. And I won’t stop trying to invest in that opportunity.

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