Hundreds Intervene in Federal Review of Fracked Gas Pipeline
A coalition of environmental groups, along with more than 300 residents are intervening in proceedings over the Constitution Pipeline Project, a 122-mile natural gas pipeline proposed to run through portions of New York and Pennsylvania, subjecting the already unpopular project to an added layer of controversy.
The flurry of intervention filings is the latest sign that residents and advocates are prepared to fiercely challenge infrastructure projects that will allow more fracking-enabled gas development in the region.
“The people who live here do so by choice—for the rural lifestyle, clean air, pure water and abundant wildlife. They understand this pipeline will lead to an industrialization of the area, and they are not going to give up their land—and everything else they love about country living—without a fight,” said Anne Marie Garti, a founder of Stop the Pipeline, a grassroots organization formed by landowners and citizens who oppose the pipeline.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has raised concerns over the environmental impacts of the project, has also intervened in the federal proceedings, indicating that the state agency intends to scrutinize the federal approval process.
The Constitution Pipeline Project—a joint venture between oil and gas company subsidiaries Williams Partners Operating, Cabot Pipeline Holdings, Piedmont Constitution Pipeline Company and Capitol Energy Ventures—is proposed to transport natural gas from Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania through Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie Counties in New York to two existing interstate pipelines. Concerned about their property rights, as well as environmental and public health impacts of the project, approximately 1000 people submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last year opposing the proposed project, and 35 percent of the property owners along the pipeline route have refused to allow project personnel onto their land.
“My wife and I bought land, and built our house by hand, in order to enjoy the tranquility of the countryside,” said Dan Brignoli, a lifelong resident of Delaware County. “Last year they wanted to put the pipeline 200-feet from our home, but we wouldn’t let them on our land. Now they’ve moved it up the hill a hundred feet, just over the property line, but it could still pollute our water, or kill us if there were to be an explosion. The government shouldn’t let them take our land when there isn’t a real need for this pipeline. They just want to make more money—and lay down the infrastructure for fracking in New York State.”
But in spite of local objection, the companies proposing the project are pushing forward with plans, and filed an application with the FERC in June. Today is the deadline to intervene in the FERC proceedings, resulting in filings by more than 300 residents; Stop the Pipeline, represented by the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic; Riverkeeper; and a coalition of environmental groups—Catskill Mountainkeeper, Clean Air Council, Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Pennsylvania and Atlantic chapters of Sierra Club—represented by the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice.
“This 122-mile Constitution pipeline, planned to run through five counties and two states, is the sort of massive infrastructure project that will lock the region into continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels at a time when we need instead to be speeding the transition to clean renewable energy,” said Earthjustice attorney Bridget Lee. “The law requires the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to give careful consideration to the pipeline’s impacts on people, communities and the environment. Foresight and common sense dictate that FERC officials consider forgoing the project altogether.”
“Pipelines that have cut through our region have inflicted incredible damage—destroying forests, cutting through creeks, irreparably transforming wetlands, causing more polluted runoff and decimating habitat critical to creatures in our region," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “The harms to the ecology of the region are devastating, but so are the harms to the people—damaging ecotourism, harming recreation such as hunting and boating, destroying the peace and beauty of communities during and after construction, forever changing what it means to live in these communities, and increasing the drilling and fracking that are destroying communities elsewhere and making this country even more dependent on dirty fossil fuels.”
The 122 miles of pipeline and additional miles of access roads will cut across forests and watersheds.
“The proposed project poses a substantial threat to ground and surface water resources in both New York and Pennsylvania. The 122 mile pipeline has the potential to impact and potentially contaminate multiple public drinking water sources and an untold number of private drinking water wells that lie within the project area. The pipeline itself proposes to cross hundreds of streams and wetlands by literally digging a hole through them,” said Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper. “These impacts alone demand that FERC take a hard look at the project's environmental effects. Any project that jeopardizes multiple water resources in two states is clearly against the public's interest.”
The project also includes two compressor stations, posing a threat to air quality and public health.
“The so-called Constitution Pipeline could emit hundreds of tons of harmful and climate-disrupting air pollution in northeastern Pennsylvania and New York each year, yet the Application ignores these real threats to public health,” said Matt Walker of the Clean Air Council. “The project also is likely to create more demand for increased fracking and transmission infrastructure, all of which will cause even more air pollution and more health impacts for the people who call the surrounding communities home. Given the potentially serious risks to public health, the Council urges FERC to deny the application for this ill-advised project.”
The project will disturb hundreds of acres of land—with access roads and industrial equipment cutting across forests and watersheds. The project potentially will affect both threatened and endangered species, including the Indiana Bat, migratory birds and special protection waters.
“The pipeline as planned will fragment some of the best remaining bird habitat in the region,” said Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society Co-President Andrew Mason. “Many species already in decline will suffer further losses from this corridor that will break up their breeding territories and allow predators and nest parasites into the forests.”
Aided by the controversial high volume hydraulic fracking process and state and federal deregulation, gas drilling in Pennsylvania has increased exponentially in recent years and New York residents are fighting to protect their state from an impending gas drilling rush.
“If this project goes forward, the big winners will be the stockholders of the natural gas companies and the big losers will be the rest of us, said Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “There is no public necessity for this project. This is clearly a case of the gas industry trying to push through a project to increase their profit margin at the expense of the people along the route who will suffer the impacts of a web of gas infrastructure that enables the development of the Marcellus Shale by oil and gas companies.”
The pipeline will spur the already frantic pace of gas drilling and fracking in Pennsylvania—along with the air, water and climate pollution that accompanies such development—and would lay the groundwork for industry to operate in New York. The impacts associated with this industrial activity include: spills of diesel fuel and fracking chemicals, methane migration into groundwater; contamination of major rivers with fracking wastewater, forested landscape pockmarked with well pads and access roads and pipelines cutting through forests and fields.
“FERC must acknowledge that the proposed Constitution Pipeline is not primarily a natural gas conveyance from point A to point B, but a facilitator of fracking along the way,” said Roger Downs, conservation director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “The Western Slope of the Catskills and the Upper Susquehanna River Basin are protected from fracking simply because there is no infrastructure to transport the gas to market. The Constitution Pipeline will be just that inducement—transforming this storied landscape into an industrial grid work of well pads and gathering lines.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.
- Planting Projects, Backyard Habitats Can Re-Create Livable Natural ... ›
- Humans Are Destroying Wildlife at an Unprecedented Rate, New ... ›
- UN Biodiversity Chief: Humans Risk Living in an 'Empty World' With ... ›
- Scientists Warn Worse Pandemics Are on the Way if We Don't ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
- The Vicious Climate-Wildfire Cycle - EcoWatch ›
- How Climate Change Ignites Wildfires From California to South Africa ›
- 31 Dead, 250,000 Evacuated in California Fires as Governor ... ›
World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
If you are taking medication for an underactive thyroid, check your prescription.