Hundreds Rally Asking Gov. Cuomo to Deny the Constitution Pipeline
Nearly 400 people from across the state of New York and beyond rallied in Albany today asking Gov. Cuomo to stand up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and use the state's authority under the Clean Water Act to deny the 401 water quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline.
The Constitution Pipeline, a joint venture between Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas, would run approximately 124 miles from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, New York. The pipeline would be 30 inches in diameter, and transport natural gas—the equivalent of 4.68 million gallons of oil per day—from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to New York state.
The rally was organized by Stop the Pipeline, with the support of 60 participating organizations. The event included speeches from prominent environmentalists, including Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a march from the capitol to the headquarters of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. People whose land has already been taken by eminent domain for the construction of the pipeline led the march, followed by “the spirit of the Susquehanna,” symbolizing the water that nourishes all life.
“FERC is a rogue agency that is captured by the very industry it is supposed to regulate,” Kennedy said. “We need to reclaim our democracy from corporations that routinely pollute our water, and are now taking people’s land for their profit. Governor Cuomo can continue his environmental leadership by denying this 401 water quality certificate.”
“I implore Governor Cuomo to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers by saying no to dangerous fracked gas pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said at today's rally.
“He should start by denying a water quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline. This project would cross hundreds of streams and put New York’s most essential resource—its clean drinking water—at risk. Governor Cuomo should listen to the hundreds of New Yorkers who are here today, and the many more that they speak for, and reject antiquated fossil fuel infrastructure like the Constitution Pipeline.”
In January, FERC approved limited tree cutting along the Pennsylvania section of the pipeline route, which includes about 25 miles of the 124-mile route. But, FERC delayed similar operations in New York.
On March 1, guarded by heavily armed U.S. marshals, a Constitution Pipeline tree crew began felling trees in the Holleran family’s maple sugaring stand in New Milford, Pennsylvania to make way for the pipeline. The cutting began 11 days after Federal Judge Malachy Mannion dismissed charges of contempt against the landowners for allegedly asking a tree crew that had arrived on the property not to cut the trees.
On March 24, seven people, including Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox and Pennsylvania landowner Megan Holleran, were arrested in the driveway of FERC in Washington, DC, while waiting for commissioners to join them for pancakes topped with the last drops of maple syrup from the Holleran family farm.
7 Arrested at 'Pancakes Not Pipelines' Protest https://t.co/BCksJRX9fe @joshfoxfilm @MarkRuffalo @dechristopher @350 https://t.co/Pk2G1ygWE3— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1458853445.0
"FERC has become the henchmen of the pipeline companies,” Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum said. “It uses legal loopholes and violations of law to strip states and communities of their legal rights to review, challenge, and even deny pipeline projects. We need Governor Cuomo to stand as our champion by saying "no" to the Constitution pipeline and "no" to FERC."
Other speakers today included Karenna Gore, director of the Center of Earth Ethics at Columbia University; Kanerahtiio Jock, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Bear Clan; William Roche, a property owner whose land and dreams have been taken by eminent domain; Doug Couchon, We Are Seneca Lake; Jim Cutler, Sugar Shack Alliance and Hilltown Community Rights; and representatives of many other groups.
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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