What did you do?
I lay down in a trench with more than 20 other people to temporarily halt the installation of a high-volume, methane gas pipeline in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Why did you do it?
The pipeline is a public hazard on multiple levels. First, Spectra Energy has no safety protocol in the event that the pipeline is compromised in any significant way. Gas line leaks and explosions are common occurrences, and the bigger the pipeline, the greater the damages and potential loss of life. Second, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. The fracking boom has released huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere and escalated the pace of global warming. If we continue to use fossil fuels, we face extinction. Third, the pipeline is meant primarily to facilitate exporting the gas. Once the export market opens up, methane prices will skyrocket. It’s lose-lose all around.
Why did you oppose the West Roxbury pipeline?
"West Roxbury" pipeline is actually a misnomer. It’s really the Pennsylvania/New York/Massachusetts/Nova Scotia/Everywhere-else pipeline, and it’s a hazard from start to finish. The pipeline carries fracked gas, primarily from Pennsylvania. Fracking--and related activities such as waste water disposal--causes earthquakes, permanently toxifies water supplies, spreads carcinogens over the countryside, and releases methane directly into the air. The pipelines themselves cut across public and private lands, waterways, transportation and population hubs. Spectra Energy--a subsidiary of a Canadian company--has no regard for public safety. The “West Roxbury” pipeline extends across Massachusetts into New York and passes within 100 feet of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Peekskill, NY. This same pipeline has a blast radius of 1000 feet or more. This means that, if there is an explosion there, it will almost certainly damage the reactor and the stored spent fuel rods, and spread radiation in all directions for many miles. This would place New York City, a large chunk of the American population, and a key part of the U.S. (and world) economy at direct risk, just so that some Canadian company can try and make a buck off an outdated form of fuel. As for the pipeline in West Roxbury itself: I grew up in NH. I lived in Somerville, Brighton and Jamaica Plain for 13 years. I still have friends here, and I know that Spectra Energy does not have people’s best interests at heart, and will place people in harm’s way.
What reports, studies, articles, personal experiences, etc convinced you that pipelines, fossil fuel extraction, and climate change are serious issues?
I committed to environmental activism after the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in April of 2010. Shortly after that, I began to learn about fracking, its pervasiveness, and the environmental damage associated with it. The documentary Gasland was certainly influential, but it was the more scientific studies that came out later that really showed the dangers of natural gas. One key study that came out of Cornell in 2011-12 was the analysis of the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas obtained by high volume hydraulic fracturing, done by Anthony Ingraffea, Robert Howarth, Drew Shindell, Renee Santoro, Nathan Phillips, and Amy Townsend-Small. The study used very conservative figures, and still showed that high-volume fracking releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than coal, which it was supposed to replace. That’s the gas that’s coming through this pipeline.
Why did you believe social movements/civil disobedience can make a difference?
The right question is not “why did I,” but “why do I.” Civil disobedience is one of the necessary tools of societal change. Our politicians are so bought-out at this point, that direct action-style activism is required to cut through the spin cycle. Our elected officials do not lead so much as try to keep just ahead of the curve of public sentiment. Public awareness shapes public sentiment. When we, as a people, do not get involved and maintain a proper vigil, corruption ensues. That is where we are right now, and it’s accentuated by the current administration in Washington.
What other attempts did you make to stop the West Roxbury pipeline, keep fossil fuels in the ground, stop climate change, etc?
I reached out to my elected representatives in New York State on multiple occasions to try and block this pipeline. I participated in non-arrestable protests. Then, in October of 2016, I climbed inside a different section of the same structure as the West Roxbury pipeline with 3 other people in Peekskill, NY and stayed there for 16 hours. We were arrested for criminal trespass, but we also got 3 major networks to cover that story and bring it to the public’s attention. That case is still pending in a different court, but we believe that we have a good chance at winning if the court allows us to use the necessity defense. Why was it a necessity? Because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and Governor Cuomo, and our Senators, Congresspeople and other representatives did not do what they needed to do to halt the installation of that pipeline right next to a nuclear reactor. As a result, there is now a pipeline, loaded with methane, like a bomb, right next to a massive, fragile, depository of nuclear fuel rods, and all of this sits in a town less than 50 miles from New York City.