A Pipeline By A Different Name: Algonquin

As most know by now, an unprecedented number of Native Americas, representing 280 tribes, came together in North Dakota over the last several weeks. This beautiful group was successful in protecting their land and water from the Dakota Access Pipeline (at least seemingly, for the time being). Their plight garnered international attention and support, as it should have. The New York Times published individual protector’s stories on September 11—why did they come, what does it mean to them? It was great to read: http://nyti.ms/2cBE5f7Ironically, the Times has not reported much on a pipeline of a different name much closer to their neighborhood. It's one that many New Yorkers have been resisting for years. Those who are aware of the project are deeply concerned about its risks and struggle to understand why it’s not big news.

Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Pipeline (AIM)—notice that Native American name—is a 42-inch, high-pressure line that will carry fracked gas from the shale fields in Pennsylvania, through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, ending at the intersection of Boston and the Atlantic Ocean. Scheduled to go into operation this November, it will run under our beautiful and weary Hudson, a tidal river prone to swells and extreme temperature shifts, 35 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, at the intersection of two seismic zones, within 105 feet of our oft-cited-for-disaster Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, and through lovely residential neighborhoods where people live and work. Along with them, 20 million other people live within the critical 50-mile diameter evacuation zone of Indian Point. If you’ve any doubt that pipeline accidents and explosions happen regularly, just go ahead and Google it. Double down on your search and check for leaks, too. Or, if you’re busy, watch this recent, short interview from The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann for a crystal clear synopsis of the ludicrousness: https://youtu.be/IsAXcLTTVUo.

This past week, Spectra ran into trouble when they failed to get the pipe through the hole they drilled under the Hudson, tried to pull it out, and were unsuccessful. The pipe was stuck under the river for days, and the project “activities that are going on are considered critical,” according to a letter from Spectra to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). They went on to quickly violate wetland protection regulations in an effort to rectify the situation. What kind of shape will the pipeline be in when it finally gets pulled out? Once it is in there—you know, under the Hudson—how will it be inspected? If there are critical safety issues discovered, as many have been at Indian Point year after year, will those issues be dealt with, or ignored? Last year, two pipeline safety inspectors risked their careers to expose critical safety concerns at construction sites along the same line in Burrillville, RI. As these things go, nobody in power seemed to hear them.

While Spectra continues to insist that this pipeline is safe and will serve a critical energy need in New England, most believe, based on looking at the project maps and the facilities at the line’s end and the gas contracts, or lack thereof, that the gas is meant for export. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office issued their own study rejecting the necessity for more gas, and the state Supreme Court recently ruled that electricity ratepayers should not foot the bill for such projects, causing National Grid and Eversource to pull out of their contracts for gas delivered by the pipeline the next day. I guess they’ll look for another project they can profit from without having to pay for it.

For years, New Yorkers of a wide variety of ages, occupations, and political leanings have been fighting this project tooth and nail in a myriad of ways—lawsuits, nonviolent resistance, rallies, protests, vigils, letter writing, and phone campaigns. But here we are, about to see the switch flipped on a project that could easily make GE’s PCB problem on the Hudson look like child’s play and which could quickly mimic Fukushima in a way that would prove without a doubt that we have a collective death wish—not to mention escalate our pesky climate crisis by putting another massive fossil fuel project into play. And let's not forget those people in Pennsylvania, where the fracked gas comes from, who are already living with the consequences.

After initially giving the project a pass, Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, and Senator Gillibrand have more recently written letters urging that the project be immediately halted. But the letters have had no effect on FERC nor Spectra, and our state leaders have yet to take additional action. Why? Where is their courage and determination to protect us?

An official statement from Sacred Stone Camp might provide some insight: “. . .We have seen time and time again, a consistent strategy from the State in these situations: string out the process, break it to us gradually to avoid a big confrontation, present the illusion of careful, thoughtful review of the case, tempt us with promises of modest reforms. . . but then in the end make the same decision that serves money not people. So far this is just talk, not actions, and actions are all we should care about.” 

In the absence of courageous leadership from our Senators and Governor, we desperately need to see some New Yorker common sense, gumption, and power come into play to stop the AIM Pipeline, and we need to see it now. If you care about what’s happening in North Dakota, and you’re inspired by those who have stood up, I’ve got an island I can sell you, just south of Peekskill—let's use our multicultural, powerful Yankee pride and stand up for Manhattan, the Hudson, and the rest of our sacred state.

We need you. Call the Governor and our Senators every day, sign a Pledge to Resist, and find out what else you can do to take a stand for New York at https://sape2016.org.