Environment

Why Is Bill McKibben Charging Up an Anti-Fracking Rally in a State That Banned Fracking? (Video)

Protesters gathered outside Gov. Cuomo's office to stop the totally illogical construction of a fracked gas plant.

Albany, NY—Nationally known environmental leaders including Bill McKibben spoke to a rally outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in Albany Thursday to stop the Competitive Power Ventures fracked gas plant from operating in the Orange County town of Waywayanda, New York.  

CPV would bring fracking's environmental, climate and health impacts to New York, in spite of the fact that New York banned fracking to avoid those impacts. It would import and burn large quantities of fracked gas and singlehandedly raise New York's greenhouse gas emissions at least 10 percent, and probably more, swamping the state's GHG reduction goals.

Studies show that over its lifecycle, fracked gas emits more greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere than oil or coal. Methane, which fracking extraction and infrastructure emit in massive amounts, is 86 times more powerful a warming agent over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide.

Competitive Power Ventures is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution for bribing disgraced Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco and others to advance the plant. Incredibly, the plant continued to get permitted and built even while the corruption behind CPV was being exposed.

The state permitting process regarding CPV was manipulated and compromised, including through granting lead permitting authority to the local municipal government instead of the NYS Department of Environmental Protection (DEC), and repeated attempts to preempt DEC’s authority to rule on a water quality certificate to permit construction of the Millennium Valley Lateral Pipeline. 

Madeline Shaw of Wawayanda and Isaac of Minisink don't want fracked gas in their community. (image: Protect Orange County/Facebook)

The pipeline would feed fracked gas to the plant, take land by eminent domain and cross and impact 60 streams and wetlands. CPV still needs the water permit in order for the plant to operate. It went ahead and built the plant, now 80 percent complete, without obtaining the permit. Opponents argue that was putting the cart before the horse, and that the project does not qualify for a permit under the New York State Clean Water Act.

Without the permit and the feeder pipeline, the plant could conceivably run on diesel, though not more than 30 days out of the year. New York State retains the authority to grant or deny the permit until the end of August. Speakers at the rally demanded that Gov. Cuomo and DEC deny the permit, effectively keeping CPV from going operational, and lend credibility to Cuomo’s claim to be a climate and environmental leader.

“Governor Cuomo got lots of credit for banning fracking in the State of New York....But it makes no sense to say you’re banning fracking in New York, and then build a power plant that demands that you go frack somewhere else to do it,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. "There may be old-style corruption at the bottom of this CPV plant, but there is definitely a kind of intellectual corruption at the top of it.”

“I’ve been in government for 50 years, and I can tell you, I know a crooked deal when I see one,” said Dennis Kucinich, former Ohio congressman, former Cleveland mayor and two-time presidential candidate.

“CPV is a crooked deal—period full stop," he said. "Governor Cuomo, whom I know and consider a friend, long ago should have recognized that this process is contaminated. When you have people in your office who are charged with bribery, when you see the corruption in the permitting process, it’s time for the governor to recognize this. His career depends on it, and our lives depend on it.”

(image: Protect Orange County/Facebook)

“Our government is allowing entire communities to be colonized by corrupt corporations like CPV. They call us host communities, but we are not hosts, we are hostages,” said Pramilla Malick, founder/chair of Protect Orange County

“Don’t be fooled by false narratives. A 100MW windfarm is not enough. Our message to Governor Cuomo? You cannot trade victims and trade poisons and declare it an environmental victory. You cannot join the climate leaders club unless you cut the cord to CPV.  What is your legacy going to be, Governor Cuomo—a climate leader or a climate deceiver?”

“In this struggle, everybody is going to be touched, everybody is going to have to make a sacrifice,” said actor and activist James Cromwell. “We have no interface between us as citizens and the people in power. The only way to get their attention is to resist.”

Around 500 protesters gathered at a rally Thursday outside Gov. Cuomo's office. (image: Protect Orange County/Facebook)

Tim DeChristopher, climate activist and founder of the Climate Disobedience Center, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and many other environmental leaders also spoke at the rally. It was attended by about 500 vocal supporters who then assembled inside the governor’s office building and delivered a petition with some 7,000 signatures demanding Cuomo and DEC deny the water permit and stop CPV from operating.

Watch a video of Thursday's rally:

Stephen Kent is the president of KentCom LLC, a public interest and public policy PR practice.

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