Last night on Sex and Politics, I spoke to two different people about Fracking, natural gas, and the protests around it. First up was Sean Dixon from Clean Ocean Action, which has been in the fight over fracking owing to the toxic runoff from fracking that ends up in the ocean waters. Dixon’s organization (one of a number of such organizations including Sane Energy Project) is concerned about a new impetus to build a previously-rejected deep-water LNG transshipment facility off the coast of New Jersey and Long Island. He lays out the case far more eloquently than I can here, but what you need to know is this: the plan has previously been rejected by Governor Christie of New Jersey (hardly someone who has ever had much desire to burnish his green credentials with the voters) because of the effect it would have on fishing and tourism along the shore. The post-construction economic impact would be a big loss of jobs–Sean corrected me that it won’t be a ‘wash’, it will be a loss as businesses along the shore experience the kinds of environmental and health impacts that such a facility would bring. The facility, if something went wrong or there was an explosion, could force the closure of the shipping lanes coming into the Port of NY/NJ, leading to a problem that is analogous to what happens when you close, say, two of the three tubes of the Lincoln Tunnel–things will get mighty crowded in that third tube. The facility is also being proposed for an area already being set aside for wind turbine energy. That doesn’t feel like an accident to me.
And anyone who needs to understand what a bad idea this is should understand the technology–natural gas is being chilled to the point where it compresses and can be put aboard ships. There are numerous things that can go wrong with such a transfer, many of which lead to really large explosions. One of the reasons it’s so difficult to get such plants approved and built is that people who know the technology understand just how vulnerable LNG would be to terrorism, for example. Also, putting a facility like this in a geographical area that still hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Sandy doesn’t seem like the brightest thing a company can do. If an area has two or three ‘Century Storms’ in 11 years, that alone should tell us that our century storm paradigm is broken.
But the biggest argument against the facility is that it makes the increase of fracking in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania a fait accompli–there’s a place to ship off the fracked gas profitably. The arguments by Liberty Natural Gas that this will be an import facility to get gas from Trinidad and Tobago are laughable. That country isn’t interested in selling their gas here when they can get far more for it in Europe or Asia. And the transport of the gas thousands of miles away also adds to the environmental impact of the operation, compounding the already-problematic issues of inevitable leakage of methane from the trans-shipment points.
Again, I’m not nearly doing justice to Sean’s arguments here. Watch this space for the podcast (it should be up in a few days’ time). Clean Ocean Action also has a comprehensive fact sheet here. And there are public hearings scheduled next month, along with a comment period. Per my friend at Sane Energy, here’s the schedule:
Public engagement:Public hearing Long Beach, July 9thThe Allegria Hotel,80 West Broadway,Long Beach, New York 11561,phone 516-889-1300.Free street parking is available and the parking lot at the Long Island Railroad Long Beach Train Station near Park Place and Park Avenue approximately 1200 feet from the hotel is available from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. In addition, there is free valet parking at the hotel for those that want and/or need to use this service.Public hearing, Edison, New Jersey, July 10thThe New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center,97 Sunfield Avenue,Edison, New Jersey 08837,phone 732-417-1400.Free parking is available at the center.Public comments by mail must be received by July 14th:
Docket submissions for USCG-2013-0363should be addressed to:Department of Transportation,Docket Management Facility,West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140,1200 New Jersey Avenue SE.,Washington, DC 20590-0001Public comments by fax must be received by July 23rd(update):fax number is 202–493–2251Public comments by email must be received by July 14th:
In the second segment, I spoke to Kim Fraczek of the People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street. The Puppet people are the busiest folks I know–they’ve been present at demonstrations at least three times in the last week. And their protest against Fracking at City Hall (a flash-mob event involving standard-bearers from Occupy Wall Street such as Rude Mechanical Orchestra and Guitarmy) was an arts-event carefully crafted to avoid police unpleasantness. People’s Puppets bring a really interesting art dynamic to protests, and they’ll be out this Sunday at New York Gay Pride on behalf of Bradley Manning. The actions of arts/activist groups like People’s Puppets bring out the issue of just how pervasive Occupy has become and how it has been part of other narratives in the national debate–Occupy has been supporting people like Jeremy Hammond and other ‘hacktivists’ and working to repair the damage done during hurricane Sandy through Occupy Sandy Relief. The protests a few weeks ago at Zuccotti, where Turkish activists and Occupy members condemned the ongoing police suppression of demonstrations in Istanbul, are part of a continuing narrative about the need for an opposition voice.
Again, I can’t do justice here to our conversation–come back in a few days for the posting of the Podcast.
Update–some details were corrected after I heard back from Sean Dixon. They are marked in red.