(Thanks to Beyond Extreme Energy for this post, and for organizing much of this!)
The fight against fracked gas pipelines intensified in the past week all over the Northeast, from rural northwest Massachusetts to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) headquarters in Washington, D.C. and points between. People are standing up to reclaim their rights to clean air, clean water, a stable climate and peace of mind on their own land.
First, over the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, hundreds of people participated in a walk to Stop the Pipeline – in this case, Tennessee Gas Company’s Northeast Energy Direct project, pushed by parent company Kinder Morgan. Walk organizer Hattie Nestel noted that opposition comes from the grassroots all the way up to some of the state’s top elected leadership. “People are really upset about this, so there’s a lot of activism in Massachusetts to stop this pipeline, and we might do it, we just might do it.”
While six members of Beyond Extreme Energy joined others to walk the entire 34-mile route — ending on a day with a minus 3 degrees windchill – other participants including three from BostonCAN walked for a day or two, some with young children in tow; they will suffer the most from worsening climate change caused by burning fossil fuels, including methane, which is what constitutes “natural” fracked gas. This is what is spewing without let-up from the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Los Angeles County.
Two days later, on January 20, a group of Pennsylvania residents harmed by fracked gas infrastructure took over the final meeting of Governor Tom Wolf’s Infrastructure Task Force, calling it a “task farce” because it consistently excluded the voices of frontline community members. Instead of pipelines, protestors demanded that the Governor convene a task force to focus on renewable energy.
“My friends and neighbors in Butler County have already been harmed by the reckless practices of the gas industry and the enablers in Pennsylvania’s government. This rubber stamping farce has done nothing but increase the likelihood that the destruction will continue and even escalate,” said Michael Bagdes-Canning.
More than 20 people participated in the disruption while more protested outside. As they took the center of the meeting space and chanted that they were “the peoples’ task force,” capital police arrested seven for disorderly conduct.
The next day – in the 15th consecutive monthly protest at FERC organized by BXE – five activists who have not already been banned from attending the monthly FERC Commissioners’ meeting disrupted it, speaking out against FERC’s rubber stamping of gas projects generally and against the Atlantic Sunrise project in eastern Pennsylvania specifically. Also attending was a woman from western Pennsylvania, in the heart of the fracking fields, and a woman from Kansas who said about once a week she feels the earthquakes happening in neighboring Oklahoma due to the injection of fracking fluids into the ground. After those individuals were escorted out, a larger group that had been banished to the overflow room began a song to the tune of Frere Jacques, accusing FERC of sleeping through climate change. They sounded the alarm for action with noisemakers, whistles and their voices. No arrests were made.
Finally, in a double-header on January 21, about 30 people carried out a protest at a major Bank of America branch across from the White House. They tried, without success, to engage the bank manager in conversation about the bank’s funding of projects that greatly harm communities, including Dominion Resources’ construction of a $3.8 billion LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal in Cove Point, Maryland, on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. He threatened to have them arrested; after 15 minutes they went outside and held an hour-long rally on the sidewalk.
Steve Norris, who participated in all four actions, said, “BXE was glad to be a part of all these protests, in spite of the cold. We also had a very successful leafleting of employees at FERC today. Several employees thanked us for the work we are doing, one of them saying as he took a leaflet, ‘I’m totally with you guys.’”