#Sidewalk7 activists headed to trial as resistance ramps up to fracked-gas invasion

Three of the seven activists arrested for blocking the driveway at FERC headquarters during Beyond Extreme Energy’s #RubberStampRebellion in May are taking their cases to trial.

At the Superior Court of the District of Columbia yesterday, #Sidewalk7 members Claude Guillemard of Baltimore, Ellen Taylor of Washington D.C., and Donald Weightman of Philadelphia said that they would go to trial, set for Dec. 8, for their May 9 blockade at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. BXE and other groups have long criticized the agency for rubber-stamping fracked-gas pipelines, compressor stations and export facilities that it reviews.

“We have been charged with unlawful entry,” Weightman said, “but the real crime is the unlawful entry of methane and carbon dioxide into our air, the unlawful entry of toxic waste into our water, and the unlawful entry of global warming into the future of our world. The real weapon is fracked gas; FERC is the real defendant; we will charge FERC with the commission of a crime.”

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The #Sidewalk7 include, from left, Melinda Tuhus, Ellen Taylor, Linda Reik, Peter Nightingale and Claude Guillemard.

The other Sidewalk7 activists – Melinda Tuhus of Connecticut, Clarke Herbert of Virginia and Linda Reik of NY – agreed to perform 32 hours of community service and to stay away from the 800 block of 1st Avenue NE, the area of the FERC offices, for four months. Peter Nightingale of Kingston, RI, says he intends to go to trial as well.

The court actions yesterday was part of the ongoing resistance to fracked-gas infrastructure, including demanding a halt to construction of Spectra’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline.  #StopSpectra activists have declared a “state of emergency” in advance of a noon press conference Thursday outside the Manhattan offices of Sens. Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The senators wrote a letter to FERC on Aug. 3 calling for construction to stop. In February, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also asked FERC to postpone the pipeline construction.

After the court hearing, New York and BXE activists hand-delivered invitations to the press conference to the senators’ Washington offices.

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The pipeline “would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New England, despite a report from the Massachusetts Attorney General that shows no need for this gas,” the letter said. “In NY, if completed, the AIM Pipeline would carry gas through residential communities and within 105 feet of critical Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant safety facilities. Just last April, Spectra Energy’s Texas Eastern line erupted into a giant explosion due to pipeline corrosion, and New Yorkers fear what an explosion of this magnitude could mean in such close proximity to Indian Point. Over the last several years, communities along the pipeline route have risen up against the pipeline, and are counting on New York Senators to help stop this dangerous project.”

In June, DeSmog Blog reported  that a FERC employee who was the agency’s project manager for reviewing the then-proposed AIM pipeline had been hired by an engineering company that is one of Spectra’s main contractors. DeSmog Blog reported in May and July that a contractor hired by FERC to conduct an environmental review of a Spectra project was already working on related Spectra pipeline projects. U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have written to FERC Chairman Norman Bay asking about the “potential conflicts of interest.”

A campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience is also ongoing in West Roxbury, MA, where 165 people have been arrested so far blocking construction of the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline.   Resist the Pipeline is coordinating those actions. In addition, the City Council, mayor, the state representative, state senator and U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch oppose the project.

Boston City Council President Michelle Wu said, “Climate change impacts us all and especially future generations. We need immediate, bold action to transition rapidly away from reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy. Building new natural gas infrastructure, such as Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, is wrong for our communities and wrong for future generations. I applaud the thoughtful, purposeful, nonviolent civil disobedience West Roxbury residents and friends are practicing to accomplish what needs to get done.”

In addition, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled today that the state can’t force residential ratepayers to subsidize the construction of pipelines.  “This is an incredibly important and timely decision,” said David Ismay, lead attorney on the case for Conservation Law Foundation. “Today our highest court affirmed Massachusetts’ commitment to an open energy future by rejecting the Baker Administration’s attempt to subsidize the dying fossil fuel industry. The course of our economy and our energy markets runs counter to the will of multi-billion dollar pipeline companies, and, thanks to today’s decision, the government will no longer be able to unfairly and unlawfully tip the scales.”

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