While Occupy Wall Street’s anniversary this past Monday gave Lower Manhattan three days of the sit-ins, concerts, and protests it endured last fall, a small group of Occupiers chose to focus on a different area of the island—the West Village.
At the intersection of Gansevoort and the Hudson River, a group called ‘Occupy the Pipeline’ marched to Foley Square last Sunday, as part of the Blast Zone March. The march, intended to stop a $1.2 billion natural gas pipeline currently under construction in the West Village, drew upwards of 500 protestors.
The march was just one of many demonstrations that environmental groups have been staging in response to the pipeline plans. Spectra Energy Corporation, a Texas-based gas company, plans to build the conduit into New York City, ferrying fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale. In 2009, the company signed an agreement with ConEdison and several other companies to supply up to 800 million cubic feet per day to the New York and New Jersey regions by the end of 2013. The construction plan includes connecting Manhattan with an existing pipeline on Staten Island in addition to widening an existing pipeline that runs through New York and New Jersey. “With this expansion, we’ll be delivering clean-burning natural gas to heat homes and businesses, and fuel much-needed gas-fired electric generation in these critical markets,” Greg Ebel, president and CEO of Spectra Energy Corporation, said in a press release.
Spectra insists upon its reputation as a clean-fuel, sustainable company, pointing out on its website that natural gas produces 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal, and 30 percent less than fuel oil when burned. However, many environmentalists fear that the pipeline will bring gas that is irresponsibly retrieved, or contaminated with chemicals. In particular, they worry that the gas (which will be used in homes and apartments for cooking and heating) will contain the fracking chemical Radon, a carcinogen that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking.
Opponents of the pipeline’s construction also fear explosion and safety risks that come along with the pipeline, especially considering Spectra’s poor history of safety violation citations. Natural Gas Watch reported this summer that “inspectors from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency cited Texas Eastern Transmission, a division of Spectra Energy, for seven serious pipeline safety violations, including failure to monitor its pipeline for corrosion and failure to control for corrosion.”
Back at the Gansevoort Peninsula, where construction on the pipeline has already begun, four activists were arrested for trespassing (and one for lying on top of a backhoe) last week, while protesting Spectra’s huge undertaking.
“The community has protested this at every stage—through the FERC review, through community boards, to the Mayor, through block associations—and it’s fallen on deaf ears,” David Publow, the activist who was lying atop the backhoe, said, according to Gothamist. “I can’t stand by while radon is introduced to New York City … and our government acts like the gas industry’s apologist.”