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Fracking Comes to NYC in New Pipeline: Activists in New York and Across the Country Protest Fossil Fuel Escalation

The Spectra Pipeline in New York is just one of a new breed of high pressure pipeline being built around the country to expand the gas market to meet the increasing output of U.S. shale production.

Photo Credit: From the Occupy the Pipeline Facebook page


A hard rain was falling on Monday night as Occupy the Pipeline activists spread out along New York’s Hudson River Park, in front of the site where workers in orange day-glow vests have been laboring around the clock on the New Jersey-New York Expansion Project. Known colloquially by the name of its builder, Spectra Energy, the  Spectra Pipeline will pump fuel hydraulically-fracked from Pennsylvania’s gas fields into New York City. The very real risk of explosion along the densely populated regions through which the pipeline passes have made local residents want nothing to do with the project, as evidenced by letters submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the pipeline’s approval process, when only 22 of the 5,000 letters were in the project’s favor. Nor are even those thousands of opponents alone; Monday’s action was part of a nationwide day of actions against fossil fuel infrastructure.

The Spectra Pipeline is just one of a new breed of high pressure pipeline being built around the country to expand the gas market to meet the increasing output of U.S. shale production. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on October 18, 2011, Spectra Energy entered into a $1.5 billion revolving credit agreement with the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Through what’s known as a syndicated loan, Wall Street infused Spectra with capital and spread the financial risk around, while leaving the risk of  possible explosion for local residents to bear.

On Monday, October 15, Occupy the Pipeline activists wrapped themselves in yellow caution tape as they stood in front of the pipeline construction site. They had black-and-white skeleton makeup on their faces — representing, they said, the danger of fossil fuels turning humans into fossils — which was bleeding down their chins because of the rain. The tape woven around the bodies of those on the line served as a symbol of interconnectivity. “We are all connected through a web of toxic pipelines,” Occupy the Pipeline organizer Monica Hunken cried out through the people’s microphone, “but we are also connected by a vision for safe and sustainable world.”

Seeing their local fight against Spectra as a microcosm of a broader battle, Occupy the Pipeline  put out a call several weeks earlier for those opposing America’s fossil fuel beef-up to join them in a day of action on October 15. In Texas, activists who have been carrying out direct actions against the Keystone XL didn’t need much prodding. On #O15, as the date has been called, 50 people stood in the way of the pipeline that NASA climate scientist James Hansen has told the  New York Times means “game over” in the fight against climate change. The Keystone XL is designed to bring heavy crude oil from a deforested region in Alberta, Canada, to export markets along America’s Gulf Coast. After over 1,000 people were arrested sitting-in at the White House against the pipeline in the summer of 2011, and thousands formed a ring around the White House last November, President Barack Obama announced in January he was nixing approval of the pipeline until after the 2012 election. Quietly, however, his administration gave the go-ahead for construction of the XL’s southern portion.

During a stump speech in Cushing, Oklahoma — a town known as the “Pipeline Capital of the World” — Obama disputed claims that he was a softhearted environmentalist. “We’ve built enough pipeline to encircle the earth and then some,” he told the Cushing crowd. Writing at  Grist, shortly after Obama’s Department of the Interior issued four coal mining leases for the Powder River Basin in 2011, Glenn Hurowitz  summed up the president’s “all of the above” energy policy as “effectively using modest wind and solar investments as cover for a broader embrace of dirty fuels.” It’s a trick straight out of BP or Chevron’s playbook, writes Hurowitz, to “tout modest environmental investments in multi-million dollar PR campaigns, while putting the real money into fossil fuel development.” But these days Obama does not appear to be playing down his enthusiasm for coal, gas and oil.

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