A Taste of the Whole Dirty Big Business of Natural Gas


I went to a public meeting in Mahopac last week. Today the word “enormity” occurred to me. I’m always surprised by this word, which seems like it should mean the quality of being very big, like Jupiter. But enormity primarily means “an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act.

I was thinking of “enormity” as I was trying to get my head around all the bad realities involved in fracking, natural gas infrastructure, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) relationship to the consent of the governed, the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, and so on and etc.

The Algonquin Expansion

The Algonquin Expansion

[For those without an ear to this ground, greatly increased quantities of (more radioactive than usual) natural gas are going to begin flowing through New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island into Massachusetts. A number of people and groups in Westchester County and elsewhere are organizing opposition to these plans and educating the public. Spectra Energy, the pipeline company, is seeking a permit from FERC for building an enormous amount of new infrastructure, and the period of public comment is still open. FERC being the same people who approved the compressor station in Minisink, NY, which has lead to a case in Federal Appeals Court. Learn more about the battle of Minisink here]

To highlight the terrifying absurdity of the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion plan: The huge new pipeline is to run under the Hudson River, as will a new 1,000 megawatt high voltage power line. The two will come ashore together right near Indian Point’s spent fuel pool. And this whole nexus will sit atop the Ramapo Fault Line. What could possibly go wrong? It’s darkly, deeply comic. And highly trained operators will be recruited from college sophomores on spring break, and it’ll all be adjacent to the new drone-fired missile targeting range. (BTW, those last two are examples of hyperbole.)

Hazmat Placards

So many hazards ...

And fracking permanently contaminates millions of gallons of water, releases toxins and radioactivity, causes earthquakes, poisons wells, and releases methane, a greenhouse gas bizarrely more powerful than carbon dioxide. It creates hardly any jobs, destroys people’s property values, and is implicated in dozens of severe public health risks. The infrastructure — pipelines, compressor stations, metering stations – create air pollution, noise, noxious odors, low frequency acoustic energy and a very large number of serious health impacts.

And natural gas exploitation was made exempt from a whole swath of federal law: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund liability and cleanup). I’ve never heard any credible explanation of how these exemptions might be in the public interest. Not counting jobs, jobs, jobs and energy independence and that bathtub small government’s scheduled to be drowned in.



And the companies hoping to make obscene amounts money selling the natural gas at the heart of all this claim to be working for American energy independence while seeking permits for liquefaction plants and export facilities to sell it in foreign countries.

And let’s not forget that parts of all these operations are leaking, burning, and exploding on an amazingly regular basis. (Check out “This Week In Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions” at the indispensible Natural Gas Watch. They may be running a Kickstarter campaign soon to stay in business. Stay tuned and give generously: we need independent journalism on all these issues.)

The more you look into all this, the worse it gets. For the well-acquainted, the feelings becomes sort of muted and impacted and exhausting. Cynical hopelessness battling public-spirited optimism, against a backdrop of rage and disgust. But there’s also a determination, a stubborn insistence to stand up for the health and welfare of ourselves and the rest of the biosphere.

There’s beginning to be a real divide here. Each week brings something new – some new outrage, new danger, some new nugget of casual corporate mendacity or heartlessness, some new barrel-scraping government collusion – to the attention of those on the front lines. Out in the rest of the world, there’s vague stirrings that something dangerous and disturbing is afoot, or little or no awareness at all. More and more people are committed to bringing more citizens across that divide. Relatively uninformed people are coming to these meetings, especially those who learn there’s something happening right in their own backyards, and they’re hearing about nosebleeds, midnight ventings, damage to liver and kidneys, and keeping a symptom and odor journal.

Criss-crossing the region ...

Criss-crossing the region ...

And more and more people are working hard to make that happen. Just for the events last week, they coordinated Wilma Subra, a scientist (microbiology and chemistry) and Macarthur genius, Richard Kuprwicz, president of energy consulting company, Matthew Walker from the Clean Air Council, Nadia Steinzor, Eastern Program Coordinator of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project at Earthworks. And publicity, venues, literature, networking, and everything else that goes into it. This roadshow opened Wednesday night in Montrose, Thursday morning in Middletown, Thursday afternoon meeting with and educating Westchester County legislators, and Thursday night in Mahopac. Here’s a map of them criss-crossing our region.

All this activity is under the auspices of Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE 2016). From their website (which you can find here) you can get a sense from the list of founders and co-sponsors the amount of effort involved and the number of shoulders being applied to these wheels. Thanks to all of them. (I’ve rendered the people and groups I’ve met in bold.)

SAPE Founders: Paula Clair, Resident of Philipstown; Suzannah Glidden and Marian Rose, Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition (CWCWC); Susan McDonnell, Cortlandt WATCH; Jerry Ravnitzky, Concerned Residents of Carmel & Mahopac; Ellen Weininger, Grassroots Environmental Education; Susan Van Dolsen, Westchester for Change

Co-Sponsors: Air Soil Water; Better Future Project; Debby Bobson, Resident of Ardsley; Bronx Greens; Businesses Against Fracking NY; Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy; Catskill Mountainkeeper; Chefs for the Marcellus; Clean Air Council; ClimateMama; Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline; Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition; Concerned Families of Westchester; Concerned Health Professionals of NY; Concerned Residents of Carmel & Mahopac; Cortlandt WATCH; Damascus Citizens for Sustainability; Delaware Riverkeeper Network; Essex/Passaic Green Party; Federated Conservationists of Westchester County; Food & Water Watch; Food & Water Watch NJ; GMOFreeCT; Grassroots Environmental Education; Hudson River Sloop Clearwater; Hutchinson River Restoration Project; Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition; League of Women Voters Rivertowns NY; New Jersey Sierra Club; New Yorkers Against Fracking; Northeast Organic Farming Association-CT; NYC Friends of Clearwater; NYH2O; Otsego 2000, Inc.; Pepacton Institute, LLC; Rockland Coalition Against Fracking; Roseland Against Compressor Station; SACRED; Sane Energy Project; Save Cummins Hill; Shut Down Indian Point Now!; Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group; Sister Carol De Angelo, Sisters of Charity; Stop the Minisink Compressor Station; The Mothers Project; Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Briarcliff, Croton and Ossining; United for Action; WESPAC; Westchester for Change; Westchester SAFE< blockquote >

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