by Tom Ellis
Albany, NY: Kim Fraczek, Co-Director of the Sane Energy Project spoke on “Gas Infrastructure — The Big Picture” at the January 18 SPB dinner. She is very enthusiastic opinionated, and optimistic about blocking construction of many of the proposed natural gas pipelines in New York. She displayed an interactive, online map of all the gas infrastructure of New York created by Mary Finneran, and said it has now extended to include New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The map project was started simultaneously with the huge fall 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City. Kim showed a short video about gas and fracking infrastructure in New York that described many of the existing and proposed gas pipelines. She urged New York to “complete the fracking ban” the state enacted several years ago.
Summarizing the industry, she said (1) active drilling occurs in Pennslyvania, (2) wastes are dumped in landfills or spread along roads in the southern-tier of New York, and (3) pipes extend to the coast where the gas is exported to Europe and Asia where buyers pay much more than in the United States. She said the industry’s national goal is to export gas.
She said over its lifetime, methane is 86 times more climate dangerous than carbon dioxide. She also described some of the many health impacts of gas drilling. A proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project for Port Ambrose, NY was defeated, She said Donald Trump wishes to ramp up LNG exports. She said New York will not export LNG. “We defeated Andrew Cuomo and Dean Skelos. We build people power from the bottom up.”
She mentioned the Spectra project that would go under the Hudson River near the Indian Point nuclear station (24 miles north of the Bronx) and said the project review has been illegally segmented. The proposed Kinder Morgan and Constitution pipeline projects (that would have traversed the capital district) were also defeated.
A major problem with the pipelines are the compressor stations located every 30 to 50 miles that push the gas through the pipes. People who live in the immediate vicinity of the stations experience many illnesses including nosebleeds. One such station is in Minisink, Orange County.
Another problem is that electric power stations are being connected to the gas pipelines resulting in electric utilities and their customers financing pipeline costs. Still another problem is that fracking wastes are sold to farmers as bio-solids and spread on farm lands.
Concluding her comments, she said the Sane Energy Project map is free to use and has links to opponents, videos, and local residents. The map is frequently updated, enlarged, and expanded. “The gas industry does not want us to see this information . . . and there are more of us than them and we can win.”
During the Q&A, she said “Dominion is a nasty company,” an LNG port is under construction in Maryland, and pipelines are being expanded in many states. She said Pennsylvania is the heart of the regional gas industry and existing right-of-ways are being used to site larger diameter pipes.
At compressor stations, she said, flared gas is forced out of the infrastructure. Grace Nichols jumped in saying the flared gas contains methane and hundreds of fracking chemicals. Kim showed a video of an infrared camera capturing images of the otherwise invisible gasses. She said “building the [people] networks and resistance is what will defeat Trump.” A woman said “a compressor station in Carlisle [about 40 miles west of Albany] has four or five big stacks.”
Kim said some municipalities including New York City and Westchester County have enacted fracked waste bans. She said former Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert “Rob” Astorino desired to open New York to fracking. She called Astorino “a little rat” and said Trump would find a place for him in his administration.
An Energy Democracy Alliance has been formed, she said, to target the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC); it as many affiliated grassroots groups. She said, “we want a people’s PSC commissioner.” I asked about the not very transparent New York Renews (NYR) group who had a speaker at a SPB dinner last fall. Kim said NYR is not a front group for the gas industry, her group joined the NYR coalition but may withdraw support, NYR is a “bunch of policy wonks,” NYR has “not been good to our community.” She continued, “NYR is complicated,” it works with many labor unions, it is trying to build a huge coalition, and NYR is on the right track in trying to bring money to low income communities.
She said the PSC Chairwoman Audrey Zibelman “is okay” but the PSC had just approved a pipeline from western NY to New York City that would result in people having their property confiscated. (A few days after the dinner, Zibelman announced her PSC resignation to soon become chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator.)
Sane Energy Interactive Gas Infrastructure website http://www.youareherenymap.org
Published in March/April 2017 Newsletter
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