What did you do?
On three occasions, one in late 2015 and two others in the summer of 2016, I went to West Roxbury, MA and entered the construction site of the Spectra Pipeline Corporation with the intention of stopping the work on its West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline.
Why did you do it?
- Because I was able and fit enough to walk on to the construction site.
- It was a way to protest in a non-violent manner.
- My church congregation had just adopted a set of resolutions opposing the further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, of which the first two are:
- We have an inherent right to a livable climate, and that right trumps laws legitimizing the continued extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.
- The continuation of extraction and burning of fossil fuels as immoral; therefore the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure is unconscionable.
- As a retired person, I had little concern that any arrests on my record would adversely affect my well being or social position.
- I felt that if enough people were to join with me on a daily basis we could actually stop that construction.
- I was convinced that lawful agencies and institutions would not stop the continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, nor replace that infrastructure with appropriate renewable clean energy, in time to avert catastrophic runaway global warming.
- I felt it was the least I could do to assure a better world for the grandchildren and great grandchildren that I already have.
Why did you oppose the West Roxbury pipeline?
- As with all new gas delivery infrastructure it is not and should not be needed because existing pipelines must cover our current needs while we make the necessary transition to renewable energy sources.
- Pipelines are so expensive that to make economic sense they must operate at high capacity for 30 or 40 years, and if they were to do that, the carbon they would convey to the atmosphere would prevent us from meeting our statutory goals for reduced carbon foot print.
- If the pipelines are not used for their economic life, it would be no loss to the owners because they would still be allowed to bill the rate payers for their cost. Needed or not, there is no disincentive for the investment in pipeline construction, so the company can’t lose.
- The regulatory processes are flawed. The FERC is composed primarily of ex energy company executives who never saw a pipeline they didn’t like, and have not always imposed sufficient safety requirements. State and municipal regulators are tilted toward business interests, as are the politicians who appoint them. This creates an uneven playing field that favors the older entrenched companies over newer energy technology.
- The builders of that pipeline, Spectra Pipeline Corp. has, on occasion, demonstrated a noticeable disregard for basic safety concepts. One example is their total unwillingness to submit a meaningful safety plan to appropriate municipal authorities. Another example is their choice of the route of the line and the placement of a major metering facility just across the street from a working rock quarry where routine blasting generates ground shock waves that are felt by local residents up to a half a mile away.
- The fracking process by which the gas in the pipeline is extracted from the ground imposes environmental damage and loss of water that is not paid for in the pricing of the extracted gas. These liabilities are simply passed on to future generations instead of including them in the selling price of the gas. This price advantage reduces the competitiveness of alternative energy sources, thus adding environmentally dangerous delays to their adoption.
What reports, studies, articles, personal experiences, etc convinced you that pipelines, fossil fuel extraction, and climate change are serious issues?
- My undergraduate college degree was a Bachelor of Science with a major in Physics, so I had a basic awareness of how scientific research is supposed to work, and most of the time does work. My interests were in the design of electronic hardware, so I had no more knowledge of climate science than what anyone could pick up in the daily newspapers.
- It was in the late 1950s or early 1960s that I happened to read in the Atlantic Monthly (though it could have been Harpers magazine to which my family also subscribed) an article about global warming and how, by the melting of the polar ice, the sea level would begin to rise. I remember thinking that at the rate of rise then predicted, the rise in level would not become significantly apparent within my lifetime. Of course, at that time I felt I would be lucky if I lived to age 65, and now I am 87.
- As press reports about climate studies began to build my awareness of global warming, probably beginning in the 1980s, I did begin to be aware of push back against the prevailing scientific conclusions about human caused global warming by non-scientists like the novelist Michael Chighton, as well as scientific flacks who were employed by big oil. Having observed the tobacco industry’s brazen and criminal push back against the scientific evidence that cigarettes cause cancer using their in house medical doctors, I was not surprised that fossil fuel companies could hire supposedly reputable scientists to undercut scientific methodology into debates of “equally valid” propositions.
- It wasn’t until 2015 when I met Wen Stephenson and read his book “What We Are Fighting For is Each Other” as well as Naomi Klein’s very informative book “This Changes Everything” that I realized how far behind the climate eight ball we were. Klein especially, connected a lot of dots and showed how our entire society and economy had become captive of the oligarchs. Stevenson’s book introduced me to Tim DeChristopher, and made me first consider the possibility of civil disobedience.
Why did you believe social movements/civil disobedience can make a difference?
- In the history of labor rights, racial justice, Vietnam War protests, and other social advances, the breaking of unjust laws often was the first event that caught the attention of the wider public, leading eventually to a successful social movement.
- Often it is only the social movement that persuades those with excess power and advantage to relinquish some of it.
What other attempts did you make to stop the West Roxbury pipeline, keep fossil fuels in the ground, stop climate change, etc?
- Prior to 2015 my concern about fossil fuels was manifested by attempts to reduce my personal carbon footprint by making fewer automobile trips, more use of my bike, support for modifications to my church’s physical plant to conform to a “green sanctuary” standard, and joining the Energy Committee of my senior living residence.
- Two months prior to my first arrest in W. Roxbury, my first venture into climate activism was a trip to a Milford, NH annual town celebration parade to carry a sign protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
- I supported my state senator’s bill to implement carbon pricing in the Commonwealth.
Why didn’t you trust that legal systems would avert the harm of the pipeline? What articles, books, reports, personal experience, etc convinced you that our governmental processes are not effective at protecting our communities from threats like this pipeline?
- In early spring 2016 I attended a meeting with about ten other climate activists from Bedford and neighboring towns with our State Senator and State Representative. We learned from them that the priorities of the Governor and legislative leadership were on cheap energy, not clean energy. The state leaders were content to tout methane gas as the “bridge” to renewable energy. I find it all too believable that their tilt toward a good “business environment”, supplemented by significant financial contributions and expensive lobbyists have been able to convince at least some legislators that we still have plenty of time to tame the CO2 in our atmosphere.
- Naomi Klein’s book “This Changes Everything” makes a clear case that big business, big government, and “Big Green” (Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Foundation, National Resources Defense Council, The World Resources Institute, Conservation Fund, Conservation International, and most of all, the Environmental Defense Fund” are still heavy boosters of methane “natural” gas, and this cheap gas is the enemy of wind and solar development.
- When the Spectra Corporation refused to submit any kind of meaningful safety plan, as required by law, neither the FERC, State utilities regulators, nor municipal authorities were able to stop the construction of the W. Roxbury Lateral pipeline until such a plan was submitted, and it never was.
- Governments and the market economy have been unable to collect the current environmental costs of much coal strip mining, fracking for gas and oil extraction, and future cost of the Carbon Dioxide they dump to the atmosphere. Thus all fossil fuel extraction and use are most harmful when these costs and the severe climate damage and danger are passed along to our future generations.