What Does It Look Like to Be An Environmentalist in Prison?

 by Panagioti Tsolkas / Fight Toxic Prisons

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In the fall of 2015 the Prison Ecology Project (PEP) received an anonymous letter from a prisoner at the federal prison in Dublin, California explaining how the extreme over-use of rat poison was killing wildlife all around the prison and putting prisoners at risk of exposure to the toxic substance. Communications with the group Californians for Alternatives to Toxics confirmed that they have found the overuse of both pesticides and herbicides to be a common practice at prisons across the state.

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After discussing this issue with other environmentalists in the region around the prison, which is just east of the San Francisco Bay Area, PEP found that the Dublin prison was already on the radar for some because, at the time, it was the residency of a well-known eco-activist, Rebecca Rubin, who was sentenced to seven years for underground actions against genetic engineering in the late ‘90s. Rubin was released earlier this month.

The reality of environmentalists in prison moved from the fringes to mainstream with the sentencing of Tim DeChristopher for his infamous interference as “Bidder 70” in a Utah oil and gas auction which paved the way for the first tar sands operation in the country. While his action could be viewed as sabotage-lite in comparison to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arsons that Rubin was implicated in, the federal government’s response would put them into similar categories.

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As a result of cases like that of DeChristopher and Rubin, the contemporary environmental movement gained some first-hand experiences of its own with prison life. Like the labor movement at the turn of the century and the civil rights movement 50 years later, the environmental movement was getting a glimpse of how our government often deals with dissent. We also got a closer look at how toxic the prison system could be for prisoners and surrounding communities—what the Human Rights Defense Center coined as prison ecology.

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Along with Rubin, several other activists also became environmental prisoners as a result of ELF actions in the Pacific Northwest during the ‘90s. Daniel McGowan, for example, served time in a federal prison located on a notorious military Superfund site adjacent to the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge in Illinois. The prison, known as Marion, was also home to a Communication Management Unit, where Daniel was housed due to his political activism. McGowan was accused of domestic terrorism, though now one was physically injured by his actions. His story was featured in an Oscar-nominated 2011 documentary film If a Tree Falls.

 

Another former eco-prisoner, Eric McDavid, who was accused of plotting attacks on the Nimbus dam and cell phone towers (spurred on by an FBI provocateur) ended up doing time in Victorville FCI, a federal prison built on a military Superfund site. While the most severe of his charges were eventually thrown out in 2015 due to evidence being wrongly suppressed by the prosecution, he had already spent ten years in the pen… much of it on contaminated soil.

Marius Mason is an anarchist and an environmental and animal rights prisoner serving nearly 22 years in federal prison for acts of sabotage carried out in defense of the planet.

Additionally, there’s Marius Mason, a transgender prisoner at the federal women’s prison in near Fort Worth, Texas on the Carswell military base. Carswell is home to at least two superfund sites within a mile of the prison. One is a 760-acre plant that has manufactured military planes since 1942 resulting in soil and water contaminated with hazardous chemicals. The U.S. Air Force currently owns the facility; Lockheed Martin Corporation operates it. The other is located at “Building 1215.” The EPA considers this to be an active site, with contamination continuing to impact the area. Mason is serving a 22-year sentence for his underground actions against logging and genetic engineering, again in which no one was injured. Carswell was also home to other prominent political prisoners, including anti-nuke activist Helen Woodson and activist-lawyer Lynne Stewart, both of whom were released in recent years.

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More recently, hacker activist Jeremy Hammond was incarcerated for releasing information from security firm StratFor on their surveillance of environmental groups, among others. For this he was sentenced to 10 years in the Appalachian coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, in a federal prison called FCI Manchester.

In a March 2016 letter to the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (a group fighting a proposed prison on a mountaintop removal coal mine site in Letcher County, KY), Hammond wrote: “They say [FCI Manchester] was also a former coal strip mine site…and has two Superfund sites.”

He continued, “I wish there was a way to get the water tested. The medical here is terrible—basically you got nothing coming unless it’s life-threatening.”

The following are excerpts from McDavid and McGowan reflecting on their incarceration, and specifically, what it looked like to be an environmentalist behind bars.

From Eric McDavid

 The judge in McDavid’s case expressed astonishment and dismay that game-changing documents had not been shown at 2007 trial, adding McDavid’s treatment was ‘not fair’. Photograph: Jose Luis Villegas/AP

“It felt like there was a lot for me to share with other folks, and to surprisingly find my ideas well accepted…. There was that cultural shift of people trying to find healthier ways of being in their bodies and in their environment, so I was utilized as a source of information and ideas of different ways of eating and being healthy.  Everybody in there appreciated nature and knew how fucked up it was to be held in prisons built on superfund sites, drinking water laden in heavy metals, breathing in toxic dust and forced to consume GMO saturated foods. There was the points of connection around just wanting to be outside, no longer held in the cells and buildings which were so tangibly oppressive. The classic part was that being out on the rec yard is one of the most dangerous places to be—where there was the highest chance of a fight spreading into a riot, where it was so wide open that it was a challenge to get your back up against a wall and have a fight come at you from only the front and flanks.”

On connections to nature

“My connection to nature played a huge role in being able to maintain my heart and mind while in custody.  While in Sacramento county [jail], those four 4″ X 70″ plates of plexiglass and the fencing of the rec-yard were like windows back into the real world for me.  To watch the crows and other winged friends fly by, the people walking on the street, the Sun light, clouds, wind and rain, they were all a constant reminder of what I was doing and why.  While at the Victorville Medium II facility I was forced to take solace in the quiet of the high desert. It’s sage covered landscapes and distant mountains with varying hews of browns and greys, the powerful winds of Winter (so strong I could smell the snow on the mountains they just gusted over to try and cut through to my bones); and the stark heat of Summer which dried the air and everything in it, scorching stone, sand and skin alike; and feeling the downpours of the August monsoons soak and rinse me to the core. Then to the low security at terminal island, which sticks out into the port of Long Beach, where there is a dog run on the way to the rec. yard that is about fifteen feet to the water’s edge. The first time I heard the waves on the rocks from a passing boat a stone’s toss away I nearly jumped out of my skin. The sounds of gulls, the sight of storm swells breaching the distant barrier wall, the fog rolling in so thick I couldn’t see 25 feet away, and the brisk Winter mornings to walk around the track as the sun slowly rose.  All these things kept me close to myself, close to who I am…”

On Superfund sites

“There was wide knowledge of the fact that we were being held on a superfund site at Victorville. Just across from the prison was ample evidence in the dilapidated military housing that stood vacant and in eye-shot of the rec-yard. People knew the water was contaminated and that the air was full of toxic particles swept up by the perpetual winds that tore over the surrounding mountains. There was constant talk about it without any effort to find ways of addressing it, I think because folks were so wrapped up in dealing with the stresses that came from dealing with their cases and doing their time in such an oppressive environment.”

From Daniel McGowan

“It is actually quite difficult. On one level, you realize you are living in what used to be a wooded area. Every prison I had been in was surrounded by woods or farmland. The prison then is a rather ugly blight on that land and you are reminded of this reality every time you walk the yard. The other thing that always hit me was how much the prison wasted, whether it was the sheer amount of garbage created or the electricity and water used to power such an institution. Having mostly lived in cities and being a fastidious recycler etc, I was always pained by having no choice but throwing things out in prison. Obviously, there was no recycling but also, reuse was difficult as the cops have strict rules about stuff in your cells. People are inventive of course and find ways around this. I wrote my letters on scrap paper, paper bags, old flyers, whatever I could find…. [K]nowing that having a radio meant I would be contributing a very large share of dead batteries to some landfill somewhere. An interesting thing about being an environmentalist is how when people would find out, invariably, they would ask, ‘What, like Greenpeace?’”

Is it possible to keep a connection to nature from behind bars?

“To the extent you are not in solitary and have access to the yard, I think there are moments in which you can maintain some connection to nature. It’s not like you are ever going to camp or have real quiet time, but i often walked many laps around the track and during the winter, there were only a few of us.  At times, due to the poor shoveling, this certainly felt like hiking! One of the only pleasant things about rural prisons is having the chance to see the wildlife that comes up to the fence. I saw deer, rabbits and frogs often but the coolest thing I ever saw were the bats every single night at Sandstone (northern Minnestoa) as the sun set. At Terre Haute, we often fed raccoon tiny hot dogs that were scavenged and most people fed the feral cats and birds at every spot I was at.”

Does it feel to you like there is potential for an environmental movement to grow inside the prison system? If so, how would you envision it? (If no, why not?)

“I am unsure how that would look. I mean, on one level, from inside, you are often hamstrung in what you can do and what it would look like. I think one way is by talking to people about environmental issues in the news. I don’t know if the goal should be to grow the environmental movement in prisons as much as having ‘eco’s fight prisons for what they are.

“There is the danger of myopia on this issue. Just look at how green LEED certified prisons are being lauded for how much energy and money they save. I don’t want prisons to be showcases of green architecture. I want them gone!”

About contamination surrounding Marion

“People wrote me to tell me that Crab Orchard is polluted and that the water at Marion was bad. What could I do with this info? I had to drink water.”

[Below is a clip from a documentary titled Around the Crab Orchard.]

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Get involved with the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, and come to D.C. June 11 – 13 for Convergence Against Toxic Prisons and In Support of EcoPrisoners.

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What a beautiful wedding! CPV Power Plant + local politicians just married!

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The past few days have seen a surge in activity against the CPV Power Plant out here in Orange County NY. Thursday the 21st kicked it off with a court appearance for the “Wawayanda Six” related to their blockade of the entrance to the CPV construction site on Route 6 this past December.

For the 22nd, Earth Day, residents and allies organized a special picket at the power Plant site, as well as a video message to Cuomo to stop the project. Later that evening, a creative group of CPV opponents gathered to put the final touches on some political theater being planned for Saturday the 23rd after the normal picket every saturday 11-12pm.

About 35 people gathered early Saturday, starting at 10am, and held signs for passerbys, shared stories and plans, while putting wedding decorations on their cars and figuring out logistics for at least a dozen cars for the Wedding caravan to Middletown at Thrall Park.

The wedding of CPV Power Plant & Local Politicians was captured on live stream and can be watched on the HVEF! facebook

 

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After the ceremony, the lively reception was surrounded with sounds of African Drummers, food for all and networking and conversations about next steps for stopping the plant.It was a beautiful day and a great way to round out the past few days of growing the movement to stop CPV. While, this plant is very serious and an urgent threat already underway, our response should be both militant and fun. Our creative juices are flowing and this is just the beginning of a new phase in the struggle. CPV, Millennium and others complicit in this project should expect continued resistance, confrontation and pressure to drop the project and fuck off!

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Earth Day Week(end) Events! – Stop CPV

Extra Special Events for the Week Coming

(Happy Earth Day Everyone!)

 

Thursday, April 21            5pm Wawayanda Six

Wawayanda Town Court, Ridgebury Hill Road

wear red and/or orange to show support, bring picket signs

 

Friday, April 22           5 – 6pm Special Earth Day Picket at CPV site – bring picket signs.

                                                We will be doing a public video and need a strong turn out.

7pm Bonfire Get Together for Earth Day (weather permitting)

in New Hampton, NY

– serving vegan gluten free stew, bring your own drink and/snacks                                                     Please RSVP!  We want to get an approx. number.

 

Saturday, April 23   10 – 12pm Picketing at CPV site

12- 2:30? Caravan Procession to location in Middletown.

Please RSVP!  We want to get an approx. number.

 

  • Picnic – bring a bagged lunch
  • Speak Out – all are welcome to prepare something for a “mic check”
  • “Just Married – Street Theater Caravan Wedding” – (CPV is getting married to our local politicians).  We need plenty of people to OBJECT to this wedding.  Please bring a friend.
  • Professional Drummers Leading Drum Circle – bring a drum or two or a megaphone.  This will be in a downtown area to create a good video to send to Gov. Cuomo.

 

Things needed:

  • looking for a few people with capabilities to videotape (even on an IPhone)
  • Bring empty soup/coffee cans to tie on the “wedding car”

 

These events need a strong presence.

Please RSVP as to whether you can make

the Friday or Saturday.

https://www.facebook.com/events/542967072495029/

Sunoco tree cutting crews back at Gerharts! Support Needed!

Sunoco received a variance and crews are back on the Gerhart property today cutting down more trees. We have confirmation that someone is in the trees again to prevent felling! Ellen Gerhart (property owner) has also just been arrested again on her property, as well 1 another person.

 

E-mail us if you are able to help! – hudsonvalleyearthfirst@riseup.net

 

Below is the emergency injunction Sunoco filed with the Huntingdon County Court two weeks ago to proceed with cutting the Gerharts’ trees before April 1st, granted to them March 28th by Judge Zanic.

In it, Sunoco claims:
“After March 31, 2016, Sunoco Pipeline will be prohibited by the seasonal restriction from removing any trees on the Property.”

And yet, Sunoco is cutting down trees on the property right now, April 7th.

 

Clean Air Council's photo.
Clean Air Council's photo.
Clean Air Council's photo.
Clean Air Council's photo.

Here is the emergency injunction Sunoco filed with the Huntingdon County Court two weeks ago to proceed with cutting the Gerharts’ trees before April 1st, granted to them March 28th by Judge Zanic.

In it, Sunoco claims:
“After March 31, 2016, Sunoco Pipeline will be prohibited by the seasonal restriction from removing any trees on the Property.”

And yet, Sunoco is cutting down trees on the property right now, April 7th.

E-mail us if you are able to help! – marcellusef@riseup.net

 

Donate here: http://energyjusticesummer.org/donate-to-the-gerhart-fight-against-sunocos-mariner-2-pipeline/

https://www.facebook.com/events/216614882034778/

The family still has had no response from US DEP about Sunoco’s violations at their property.

For photos, video, and press links, see the Resources list below.

RESOURCES:

List of press coverage here: https://goo.gl/XjymaS.

Video of aftermath of Sunoco tree-cutting and damage to waterbodies on property: https://www.facebook.com/cleanaircouncil/videos/10153550201680893/

Flickr album of Sunoco violations at Gerhart property, including trespassing, felling trees into streambeds, felling trees towards observers and tree-sitter’s platform:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/backwards_dog/albums/72157666647316095

Tom Wolf
Phone: 717-787-2500
Fax: 717-772-8284
Twitter: @GovernorTomWolf

John Quigley
Phone: 717-787-2814
Fax: 717-705-4980
Email: jquigley@pa.gov
Twitter: @SecQuigley

DEP South-central Office:
Business Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m
Phone: 717-705-4700
In case of an environmental emergency anywhere in the South-central Region, please call 1-866-825-0208, 24 hours a day.

http://www.dep.pa.gov/About/Regional/SouthcentralRegion/Pages/default.aspx

DEP’s Report an Incident Page: http://www.dep.pa.gov/About/ReportanIncident/Pages/default.aspx#.VvwWA8kpDqA

Sunoco
Twitter: @SXLupdates
Twitter: @SunocoLogistic
Cashtag (use in tweets): $SXL

Tom Wolf
Phone: 717-787-2500
Fax: 717-772-8284
Twitter: @GovernorTomWolf

John Quigley
Phone: 717-787-2814
Fax: 717-705-4980
Email: jquigley@pa.gov
Twitter: @SecQuigley
@PennsylvaniaDEP

PRESS KIT: Please share this link with any local or national media contacts you have. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xyIH3_Jgpsw1nX4etGbB9KVeixWzhNg6rzG_lFNAtt4/edit?usp=sharing

DONATIONS: Tax-deductible donations for legal fees and logistical costs are being accepted and managed by Energy Justice Network. Donate here and please share the link!
http://energyjusticesummer.org/donate-to-the-gerhart-fight-against-sunocos-mariner-2-pipeline/
Checks to “Energy Justice Network” with “Mariner” in the memo can also be mailed to 1434 Elbridge St Philadelphia 19149.

For more local live updates: Juniata Watershed People Before Pipelines

Stay tuned to this page for updates and information on how you can help in person and from afar!

video/pictures of violations: https://www.facebook.com/cleanaircouncil/videos/10153550201680893/

SUNOCO Rapidly Cuts Trees on Mariner East 2 Pipeline, 2 arrested on $100,000 bail, 2 still in the trees!

Right now: Sunoco Logistics is clear-cutting trees on the Gerhart family’s property in Huntingdon County to make way for the Mariner East 2 pipelines. Sunoco’s claims to eminent domain are under appeal by the family and are currently being challenged by Clean Air Council, yet Sunoco is seizing land across Pennsylvania for its for-profit pipeline that would ship the gas overseas.

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Sunoco crews have been walking and cutting outside of the right-of-way and within close proximity to people observing their work. Sunoco still doesn’t have the erosion or watercrossing permits it needs, yet not only are crews cutting trees, they are cutting on steep slopes and into the streambed and wetlands.

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Two people were arrested yesterday, one student from Juniata College, who is alleged to have crossed into the claimed Mariner East 2 pipeline right-of-way to warn crews that a tree they were about to cut held a safety line for one of three tree-sitting protesters, and another protester who had been telling crews to stay in the right-of-way.

Both have been held at $100,000 bail for Contempt of the Judges Order. One of them has an additional disorderly conduct charge.  Please donate and share widely!

Urgent! – PLEASE DONATE

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Although Sunoco has already cut a lot of the trees along the right of way on their property, there are still several areas that they have not cut and cannot, since there are people sitting in trees to prevent felling. There are currently 2 tree-sits on opposite sides of their property, holding down some mature Oak and Pine trees, near wetlands, riparian areas and woodland ecosystems.

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For more info about the campaign go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/216614882034778/

For radio interview of Gerhart’s: https://soundcloud.com/ama-tierney/pennsylvania-landowners-resist-sunoco-pipeline-with-direct-action

PA: Sunoco Attempting to Cut Trees for LNG Pipeline

by Elise Gerhart

stop-sunocoHuntingdon, PA – Landowners in Huntingdon County are prepared to stop Sunoco Logistics Partners from tree cutting on their land for a proposed pipeline scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Ellen and Stephen Gerhart are fighting eminent domain seizure of their property by Sunoco Logistics Partners to build a natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline called the Mariner East 2. This is the second Mariner East pipeline to stretch across Pennsylvania to supply an export terminal in the eastern part of the state where ethane is shipped overseas.

Ethane, a liquid used in plastics manufacturing, is derived from shale gas obtained using the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

An appellate court is hearing arguments regarding Sunoco Logistics’ attempt to use eminent domain for the Gerhart’s property this month, but has not enjoined the company from proceeding with tree cutting. The Huntingdon County president judge George Zanic told the landowners’ attorney that the company will arrive escorted by armed sheriff’s deputies to cut three acres of trees Tuesday morning.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to do work on our property while we’re appealing the eminent domain case,” said Ellen Gerhart. “We haven’t been compensated and they’re trying to come in without wetland and stream crossing permits. They don’t have a good mitigation plan for the inevitable damage they would do.”

The Gerharts also dispute Sunoco’s mapping of wetlands and streams on their property and have asked the PA DEP to put a stop to tree clearing for the pipeline until Sunoco secures erosion and water encroachment permits according to Chapters 102 and 105 of the state’s Clean Streams Law. For example, a temporary workspace area planned on the property, where pipeline equipment is refueled, is bisected by a stream.

Ellen Gerhart continued, “Our opposition to the project doesn’t have to do with compensation, it has to do with our rights as property owners and stewards of the environment. You would think that government officials who have sworn to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution would do so, but they’re ignoring their responsibility and allowing out-of-state companies to run over the rights of Pennsylvania citizens.”

The Gerharts have stewarded their forests since 1982 and placed it under the Forest Stewardship program over 20 years ago with a promise not to develop it –  a promise they intend to keep. They refused to accept easement or settlement offers from the company due to concerns over the impact of the pipeline on their community’s health, safety, wellbeing and property values along with concerns about the environmental impact.

The first export shipment of Marcellus Shale ethane set sail March 11th from Sunoco Logistics Partners’ Marcus Hook terminal to a petrochemical plant in Norway. The JS Ineos Intrepid, one of eight 575-foot tankers commissioned by European chemical manufacturer Ineos, was loaded with 173,000 barrels of ethane that had been delivered to Marcus Hook from western Pennsylvania through the Mariner East 1 pipeline, according to Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields.

Landowners and residents are banding together to oppose Sunoco’s massive NGL export project, claiming that it is unnecessary and does not provide domestic benefits. Sunoco Logistics Partners is a for-profit company owned by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas.

Contact: Elise Gerhart (707) 499-3989

Contact: Ellen Gerhart (814) 599-2793

Direct Action Workshop – April 10th

Direct Action Workshop – April 10th

bigfishlilfish
Why: CPV Power Plant construction must stop now!
Where: Warwick, NY
When: Sunday April 10th, 4-7pm

From the lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement
to living in the trees to stop them from being cut down, direct
action activism can take many different forms.
This training will provide a space to explore what direct action is, when to
use it, and how we might integrate it into local campaign strategies.
The fracked gas CPV power plant has been under construction in nearby
Waywayanda for months even though it isn’t fully permitted. Endangered
species habitat has been leveled, trees cleared, and historical landmarks dug
up. The black dirt, clean air and water are at risk. Lets bring together our
creative energy in response to this unnecessary, fracked gas behemoth.

~ vegan pot luck ~ training ~ bonfire ~
~ RSVP for location ~ space limited to 30 ~ registration FREE ~

There is a possibility that childcare will be provided off site
For questions or to RSVP: hudsonvalleyearthfirst@gmail.com
http://www.hudsonvalleyearthfirst.wordpress.com

If you can print out or share this flyer and promote please do: DA flier CPV

Film Screening and Weekly Picket

March 10th

“How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change”

 —  a film by Josh Fox —

Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center, Sugar Loaf N.Y @ 6:30pm

Hudson Valley Earth First! is a co-sponsor of the event and will have a table set up. We do not  necessarily agree with the ideas/solutions presented in this film, but wish to be a part of the conversation.  Come check it out and visit our table!

https://www.facebook.com/events/956985874386948/

March 12th

Weekly Picket at CPV Fracked Gas Power Plant

–11am – 12pm–Wawayanda NY

Numbers have been growing each week, the last one had 26 people. Show up if you can and stack the picket. Bring a sign and/or come to the Earth First! banner and let’s get silly!

The site is on route 6, just off 17m in Wawayanda NY. If you take exit 3w off 84, take a left onto route 6 and it’s about an 1/8 of a mile down the road, you can’t miss it!

Alternatively, here are the coordinates: 41.4132552, -74.4402559

ResistAIM Defenders Halt Hudson River Drilling for AIM Pipeline

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from Resist AIM Pipeline

Buchanan, NY 02-29-16 – Today at 6 AM, 26 people took action and 11 were arrested to stop the AIM pipeline from being built in Westchester and Rockland by blocking access for over an hour to Spectra Energy’s staging area for horizontal drilling under the Hudson River. Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project would involve drilling underneath the Hudson River in Verplanck, immediately south of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. The new high-pressure, 42-inch diameter pipeline would run within 105 feet of critical infrastructure for Indian Point and would expose local communities to toxic emissions from compressor stations along the pipeline path.

The group of activists and residents chose the site because it highlights the danger of the proposed pipeline, running underneath the Hudson River and adjacent to the troubled Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. In May of 2015 , Spectra Energy had a pipeline rupture underneath the Arkansas River and w as unaware of it until the Coast Guard informed them. “If Spectra cannot adequately maintain and monitor their existing pipelines, why should we believe that they can do so for this new pipeline?” asked Erik Lindberg, a Peekskill resident who works with ResistAIM.

Governor Cuomo agrees. Today his administration announced that it will be conducting an independent safety assessment of the AIM Pipeline and its proximity to Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. The governor told the New York Times, “The safety of New Yorkers is the first responsibility of state government when making any decision.” Further, the administration is asking FERC to suspend their approval of Spectra’s AIM Pipeline pending the results of the analysis, a move that could halt construction of the controversial project.

Courtney Williams, a spokesperson for ResistAIM said, “We strongly support the Governor’s decision to conduct this independent assessment given the ongoing public safety concerns of siting this massive pipeline adjacent to Indian Point and the repeated incidents of fires and contaminated water leaks that are happening there. We share the Governor’s concerns and hope his administration will instruct the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to reevaluate the water quality certificate in light of these ongoing problems.”

Susan Van Dolsen, cofounder of Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) was similarly muted in her response to the news, “We’re relieved and grateful that Governor Cuomo recognized that construction of the Spectra AIM pipeline at Indian Point must be halted. However, construction must be halted immediately. By directing his administration to conduct an independent risk assessment, he is fulfilling his primary obligation to protect the health and safety of his constituents and the 20 million people in the entire region. The risk assessment will prove that the siting of this pipeline in this location is unacceptable. However, until construction is actually halted and Spectra is stopped, we cannot claim victory.”

The pipeline is being built against the wishes of the local communities from Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam, which have all passed resolutions opposing it. In some areas Spectra Energy has used eminent domain to seize property for construction against the will of landowners and homeowners. This has outraged residents and environmental and public safety advocates who point to Spectra’s abysmal safety record as proof that the company cannot be trusted to construct a pipeline safely.

Tina Bongar, of Peekskill, was one of those arrested. When asked why she was taking action she said, “I’ve written to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand many times. I’ve written to Hillary Clinton. I have done everything. I am also working at the local level, and that’s where I’m really concerned about the oversight. Spectra’s going to be blasting near our neighbors’ homes, and they’re not doing the proper environmental assessment that they would for any other project.”

Today’s action is just the latest of several organized locally by a coalition called Resist AIM, which was formed to stop the project from moving forward. The “Montrose 9” were arrested back in November of 2015 for blocking access to Spectra’s construction yard in Montrose. Their trial in Cortlandt is drawing national attention as they use the “Necessity Defense” to justify their actions to protect their health and safety and halt global climate change.

Nancy Vann, a Peekskill resident and President of Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG), participated in the action in Verplanck. Speaking about her motivation Vann said, “This is something we really must do. As Bill McKibben said at Yale Law School on Saturday, ‘ we’re not in an argument anymore we’re in a fight. And even though the science is against them , the folks with the money have been winning. ’ The window of opportunity to stop this pipeline and a possible nuclear catastrophe is rapidly closing – just like the window to avoid the worst of climate change. I never want to look back and wonder if I might have fought a little harder.”

ResistAIM is not alone in their opposition to the AIM Pipeline. Similar groups have formed all along the route of the AIM Pipeline using direct actions to halt Spectra’s work in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

This groundswell of direct action resistance to the Spectra pipeline follows years of residents and local governments from New York to Massachusetts trying to stop the project through standard regulatory channels. This regulatory failure demonstrates that the agencies involved – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – are unwilling to consider the full impacts of this project. Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Congressman Elliot Engel wrote to FERC and the NRC saying, “…As elected representatives of residents in the Hudson Valley, we believe FERC and NRC’s primary responsibility should be to protect the health and safety of the 20 million people who live within the 50 mile radius [of Indian Point]. Despite the widespread calls for an independent risk assessment, FERC and NRC have disputed the need and instead relied on Spectra and Entergy’s calculations… we call on FERC and NRC to require Spectra and Entergy to fund an independent transient risk assessment for the AIM Project as soon as possible.”

As Spectra fast-tracks construction of the pipeline, municipalities and organizations from Boston to New York are preparing to take FERC to Federal Court to challenge the pipeline approval. Despite these numerous outstanding legal challenges, Federal law allows Spectra to proceed with construction, leaving impacted communities no recourse for having their concerns addressed while faced with imminent harm from pipeline construction and operations.

In addition to its obvious safety and security risks, the AIM pipeline would increase our dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels at a time when the nations of the world are increasingly recognizing the need to move to renewable energy.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR8lNoZ-oMs
Cuomo Administration letter to FERC: tinyurl.com/Cuomo-FERC-AIM-Letter

This is only the beginning. For more information, please visit www.resistaim.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/resistaim/
https://twitter.com/ResistAIM

‪#‎StopSpectra‬ ‪#‎ResistAIM‬ ‪#‎WeSayNo‬ ‪#‎IndianPoint‬

Cuomo Acts to Halt Algonquin Pipeline!

Cuomo: Halt Algonquin pipeline, cites Indian Point

Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief

February 29, 2016

aim line
The 42-inch pipe for the Spectra Algonquin pipeline stands ready for installation in Verplanck.

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday urged the federal government to halt construction of the Algonquin natural gas pipeline, citing the potential dangers of its proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Cuomo administration urged the agency to postpone the pipeline until a safety review is completed. Cuomo cited recent problems at the Buchanan, Westchester County, nuclear facility and an ongoing state investigation into a radioactive water leak.

Cuomo Letter to FERC – Stop AIM

“The safety of New Yorkers is the first responsibility of state government when making any decision. Over the past several months there have been a series of serious incidents at the Indian Point Nuclear Facility, which my administration is investigating,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“At the same time, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a natural gas pipeline in close proximity of Indian Point. I am directing my administration to commence an immediate independent safety analysis of the natural gas pipeline project and until that occurs, we urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to suspend the project.

The pipeline owned by Spectra Energy is expanding across four states, including into New York and Westchester, to carry more natural gas north from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale.

The pipeline is under construction, and it has drawn opposition from residents in the Hudson Valley. It will run near a school and close to Indian Point.

Cuomo supports the closure of Indian Point, and the state is reviewing several recent incidents at the plant — including a transformer fire and tritium leak.

“Although the project applicant has agreed to more stringent construction measures near Indian Point, ongoing state investigations will assess the adequacy of these measures and may also reveal new information about the environmental, health and safety risks posed by the project’s siting,” Cuomo’s office said.

The state therefore urges the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to cease the construction of the Algonquin natural gas pipeline until the state’s analysis is complete and it can be determined that the project will not impact the health and safety of surrounding communities.”

http://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/politics-on-the-hudson/2016/02/29/cuomo-halt-algonquin-pipeline-cites-indian-point/81102566/