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Wolf writes: "A pipeline bringing natural gas produced by 'hydraulic fracturing' into New York City creates a new focus for environmental protest."

Portrait, author and activist Naomi Wolf, 10/19/11. (photo: Guardian UK)
Portrait, author and activist Naomi Wolf, 10/19/11. (photo: Guardian UK)

Occupy the Pipeline Battles Fracking

By Naomi Wolf, Guardian UK

13 October 12


Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns


A pipeline bringing natural gas produced by 'hydraulic fracturing' into New York City creates a new focus for environmental protest

saw an odd sight on a quiet, West Village street in New York City on Saturday 6 October. A group of about 30 young women and men - all naked or topless - were dancing about, with their flesh painted green.

Patrick Robbins, a 26-year-old native of Brooklyn who works on sustainable development at Cooper Union, is the spokesperson for the group, Occupy the Pipeline. He explained the purpose of the protest-art show hybrid:

"[We're] protesting the pipeline's construction on New York City's West Side Highway and Gansevoort, which is soon to be completed. The pipeline … is slated to bring hydrofracked gas from the marcellus shale - a bed that lies under Pennsylvania and New York State - into New York City's gas infrastructure."

While the health hazards at the point of fracking are well-known, I was not aware of hazards on the consuming end of using fracked gas. According to Occupy the Pipeline, the fracked gas threatens New Yorkers because gas produced from Marcellus shale has 70 times the average radioactivity of natural gas and very high radon content. The trouble with the noble gas (meaning that it is an inert gas) is that it was not one of the issues looked into by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when it analyzed the pipeline project. The commission asserted that radon risk assessment was "outside their purview", said Robbins. But the element has been linked to increases in the risk of lung cancer among non-smokers, claims Occupy the Pipeline, and poses a special risk to New Yorkers with immuno-compromised systems the moment the gas is burned - dispersing the radon.

Other health and safety concerns with fracking are linked to precedent, such as the undrinkable groundwater at Dimock, Pennsylvania, or the explosion from a pipeline of similar size and pressure in San Bruno, California in 2010 that claimed the lives of eight people.

The activists of Occupy the Pipeline assert that the pipeline's construction was part of an anti-democratic process. A moratorium on fracking in New York state has expired; now, Governor Andrew Cuomo is discussing a pilot program for fracking in the five counties of the southern tier in New York state. He refuses to say he will ban fracking altogether, a goal of the activists. As for Councilwoman Christine Quinn, a contender in the New York City mayoral race, she has also kept mum on the pipeline; she did not even send a representative to listen in on the hearings, says Robbins.

"Occupy the Pipeline and the Sane Energy Project have approached her office countless times … NYH20 sent her a petition letter requesting hearings on the Radon issue; representatives from Food and Water Watch, United for Action and multiple enviro groups met with her a month ago to remind her of the request … why is Christine Quinn ignoring calls to protect public health?"

There is a government-mandated legal buffer zone between the area to be fracked and the watershed for drinking and household use - but it is one that Department of Environmental Protection scientists have called inadequate. Fracking involves pumping underground a chemical cocktail that, according to a New York City government report (pdf) about the chemicals, comprises 58% known immune system suppressants and other toxins:

"Significant percentages contain one or more chemicals that are associated with negative health effects: cancer (33% of products contain one or more chemicals associated with cancer), endocrine disruption (41%), reproductive problems (34%), immune suppression (58%), genetic mutation (43%), and other adverse health impacts."

As for the rest, we don't really know what it may contain since that information is protected by "the Halliburton Loophole" - a Bush administration rollback of environmental regulation under the Clean Water Act. Comments Robbins:

"So they can pump carcinogens into our land and they don't they don't have to tell us what is in it because they say it is 'proprietary information'."

Given all these data, how can New York officials keep silent?

Well, the energy companies, and the major banks that finance them, all donate to the Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cuomo campaigns. Occupy the Pipeline claims that the entities profiting from fracking are "the same old cast of characters", namely: Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Economists Jeanette Barth, president of JM Barth and Associates, an environmental and economic consulting group, and Deborah Rogers, another energy consultant formerly of Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch, both spoke at a lecture this past April entitled "Frackonomics". They pointed out that in times of crisis, such as we have at present, new growth industries are hyped. Investment companies are parroting the hype around natural gas, claiming that investors will make enormous profits from hydrofracking - despite the fact that these wells are almost certainly not going to live up to economic promises now being made. The economists' message was:

"We have a word for this, and it is a bubble."

In light of all this - with politicians turning a deaf ear to their people's concerns, and companies blinded from the dangers by their greed - I asked Robbins, "What do you say to people who say Occupy is dead?"

"Occupy has given birth to a thousand more extremely important projects that are all still doing the work of transforming society. The environmental working group, from which Occupy the Pipeline sprung, have participated in all aspects of democratic process - from NVDA [nonviolent direct action] to attending hearings and submitting testimony."

As I write, natural gas companies are scouting upstate counties, trying to build, for instance, an expansion to a storage facility for natural gas in a salt cavern that sits on the edge of the Finger Lakes area, in New York. But that plan, too, has met with resistance. The Seneca Three are residents of Seneca County who were arrested for blockading a compressor station this past September by chaining themselves to its gates. On 15 October, Occupy the Pipeline will stage a protest event in solidarity with those arrested for protesting the tar sands pipeline (one notable arrestee being actress Daryl Hannah) and other pipeline activists.

"Occupy can no longer be considered outliers. Occupy groups are what democracy looks like!" your social media marketing partner


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+37 # AMLLLLL 2012-10-13 10:34
Thank God these issues are front and center rather than buried to be found out after the fact. Raising a rucus is the appropriate measure here.
+22 # Glen 2012-10-13 13:26
Simply raising a ruckus will not stop this industry. You see what is happening in Texas and the thugs hired to hammer any who come near the pipeline territory. Oil and gas are paying off any who get in their way, or simply beating the hell out of them.

This is bigger than most realize. It is going to take a lot to stop, if at all.
+9 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-13 20:14
No it is gonna take everyone who is ranting here to get involved
+31 # LeeBlack 2012-10-13 10:50
The ability of these corporations to get this far without a protest to the pipeline demonstrates the power of the corporations to run under the radar of government regulators, reporters and the general public.

"Fracking' is so far ahead of regulation that it seems impossible to stop it long enough to examine its destructive properties. It's easier to do thousands of wells without protest than it was to try to build nuclear power plants.
+3 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-13 20:15
There has been protests, major ones we are blacked out Perhaps getting involved you will do something and learn a lot
+16 # cordleycoit 2012-10-13 12:01
Good to have the Wolf on board. I bred hybrids and the female is the pack leader. Nature works that way.
There is real linkage with the the oil men and the Southern Baptist Convention. Live in Baptist country and they brought frackers to our town and got a school as a pay off.This was of course at taxpayer expense.
Colorado has laid down for the gas industry, Democrats are as bad as Baptists, a block voting Rethug. Something about the smell of gas in the water and money in the envelope.
+3 # Nominae 2012-10-13 20:44
@ cordleycoit

Great comments re: Fracking. Fracking forced me to abandon our family ranch in Wyoming.

In re: female pack leaders, however, nature is not as P.C. as are some people today.

I used to raise Dobermans. The males definitely run the pack, as they do in wolf packs, and canine packs in general. The females don't even eat until the males have had their fill. Whether or not that seems "fair" to the modern P.C. sensibility, Nature does not give a care about the modern P.C. sensibility. The modern P.C. sensibility in this case is simply lying to itself and ignoring the entire field of biology.

The Wyoming ranch had herds of horses. Even while there is always a "lead mare" at the head of a wild horse herd, the system is being *run* by the alpha males who push the herds from behind.

Cattle herds are run by the bulls.
In what version of "Nature" do you find female "pack leaders", other than in packs of Hyenas? The Hyena pack order is the glaring exception, not the rule, in the hierarchy of nature's pack orders.

You see, in the main "Nature [does not]work that way".

When in doubt, a search engine can be a powerful thing.
+1 # cordleycoit 2012-10-14 03:48
Dobbies are dogs, Hybrids are just that. In sixteen years of being witness our small pack the female dominated and according to literature it is the female who rips the prey's throat out while the males hold the head down holding the prey's nose down.
+1 # cordleycoit 2012-10-14 12:40
The largest or fastest male would take the risky move of bringing the head close to the ground. The female being second or third would ensure the death. Our female would supervise the feeding and pups when there were pups. We only had four litters.
+1 # cordleycoit 2012-10-14 12:59
Not every attack is sucessful sometimes the game is in good heath it can fight off the pack and they have to find weaker game.That's why wolves are important the are the health of the forest.
0 # vicnada 2012-10-14 09:30
Being "run" from behind or "leading" the pack? Watch these two wolves and decide:
0 # bmiluski 2012-10-15 15:20
Wrong.......... ..I have see so many cases of multiple dog homes that had both male and female dogs and the female was definitely the alpha dog and ran the pack.
+13 # Old Man 2012-10-13 12:42
This crap will never "Stop" until they kill thousands of people and then they'll continue doing the same old thing and tell you it's "Clean Oil".
These people have all the money in the world to invest in "New Green Energy" But their to God Damn lazy and won't give it up until the Earth is suck dry.
+4 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-13 20:16
People could stop it but like everything else..they would rather rant than actually get involved. been involved for ten years we need more people to get up and be heard..ooops I mean blacked out by Media Just had major march in Phila
+14 # Robert Cohen 2012-10-13 13:39
To eliminate the root of many U.S. evils such as fracking, the Occupy Movement should consider a legal approach to force the money-givers out of politics and end the legalized corruption of our national leaders.

The proposed first step to achieve that objective is to file multiple class-action lawsuits seeking to reverse two absurd Supreme Court decisions: Santa Clara ("corporations are persons"), and Buckley ("money is speech"). Success will require one of the five conservative Justices to again step forward and go down in history as a true American patriot, as did Chief Justice Roberts recently in upholding Obamneycare.

As the cases advance toward the Supreme Court, widening public awareness of them will propel a tsunami of public pressure, outcry, and support from the over 80% of American citizenry who are disgusted with the legalized corruption of our politicians by the obscene amounts of money-in-politi cs. Past Supreme Courts have been responsive to public opinion.

Once those decisions are reversed, the liberated Congress would be enabled to enact legislation in the public interest, such as to provide for public financing of elections, free airtime for candidates, universal health care, raising needed revenue from those who can best afford to provide it, and exerting world leadership in preventing and mitigating global warming.

To e-mail me via my Web site, please click on my photo.

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+1 # handmjones 2012-10-13 16:09
Consumption is what stresses the environment. Cut the consumption per person and cut the number of persons.
+3 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-13 20:20
If people would look up who int their states take money from Oil, subsidiearies of than perhaps they would learn but most just like coming on places like this an bs ing themselves.
Been involved a long time, heard about out west, then Florida and along gulf. When Katrina happened, lot of people woke up, just too bad they had to fight to keep their homes and businesses...bu t lots of chemicals in lots of places to it was 'too hard to determine blah blah blah Right now on East Coast Pa is worst...NY shoud go to Cuomo and others and shove Dimmock Pa under their noses
-28 # Depressionborn 2012-10-13 14:43
I don't know what's wrong with fracking. If it works, New York will need to pay less for heat. I think I'll burn Minnessota wood. We have lots.
+12 # Glen 2012-10-13 15:55
You are going to get a lot of replies, Depressionborn. You had better research fracking and the results, and IN A HURRY.
+8 # Third_stone 2012-10-13 16:26
There is a difference between the cash price of the gas and the long term cost. We have seen a good bit of evidence that indicated fracking will poison the earth. We should know this before we have defiled the nation. First we should know, what are they driving into the earth, and which chemical does what. The earthquakes in fracking areas need to be figured out. What if we find in a few years that we have indeed spoiled our drinking water, which some say is indicated?
I strongly suspect some of what is pumped down those holes is a contract disposal business, making hazardous wastes disappear. That would come out if the contents and purpose were known.
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-13 20:21
Must have been born in the Bush Years because you definitely are a Repuke
-15 # handmjones 2012-10-13 16:05
I see NIMBY is alive and well. You all burn natural gas in your homes and would protest any restriction on your use. By comparison with the electric facility that will burn the gas in NYC your furnace is primitive and gives off proportionately more particulate matter etc.
As to radon, the amount in the air downwind from the electric facility will contain several orders of magnitude less radon than in the ventilation air in any of the underground uranium mines. Interestingly these high levels underground at Elliot Lake Ontario resulted in a significant number of cancers, but only in smokers.
+2 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-13 20:28
I do not burn natural gas in my home. I am GeoThermal
I think all of you who believe pollution of well water is okay should take your families and live there.
I would rather be a NIMBY, I thank you for calling me that, than a NIMWIT.
Problem is most nimwits really do not want to destroy people's lives, homes, water not less the Earth.

Personally I do not care what happens to any adult ...I wonder what it would be like if your kid or grand kid went to take a bath and the pipe flamed out. What would be your thoughts when you hear about it or worse yet find the kid dead? This Planet doesnot belong to us, we borrow it from our children.

NIMBYs are why the Earth has lasted as long as it has!
0 # handmjones 2012-10-14 06:30
How well will your geothermal work without electricity?... or are you wealthy enough to have solar? You can shift it around a little but your stress on the Earth is proportional to your spending.
+5 # mrbadexample 2012-10-13 20:39
This is such a huge story it's hard to know where to begin--and thanks to Naomi Wolf for advancing it here. Mayor Bloomberg has been on a regulatory jihad since 2007 to have all NYC residences replace oil heat with natural gas, even though it's clear that there are huge new demands on the non-fracked supply of it. And earlier this year the Energy Information Agency dropped the national estimates for fracked gas deposits by some 40%--and NY State's Marcellus Range deposits were dropped by some 60%. Now that countries like Germany and Japan are scaling back on nuclear power (or dropping it altogether), there will be increased demands on natural gas even as it's become clear that fracked deposits can't cover current uses for the next 20 years. That math would be true even if the energy companies figured out how to keep from poisoning aquifers and causing earth tremors.

I know the upstate NY area is in a full-bore Depression. Put the people to work building wind turbines and pv solar panels--the demand is huge and fossil fuels will not get cheaper or easier to recover in the years ahead. But putting a 30" pipeline under the West Village to carry gas that no one can confirm is one of the most short-sighted decisions Mike Bloomberg has come up with. And that's saying a lot.
+2 # handmjones 2012-10-14 06:32
Cause a hesitation in their supply of cheap electricity and the citizens will cut off Mr. Bloomberg in a hurry!
+3 # KittatinyHawk 2012-10-13 20:41
Thank You Guardian for having better Journalists than most USA.
Thank You Ms Wolf for your story but it doesn't end in NY Pa is the worst State under Governorship and buddies of GOP welfare mooches from OIL.
Dimmock Pa is a disgrace and lot of story still kept blocked. Gov stopped water being trucked in to Families..Nice touch.
Governor also pulled studies on what fracking will do to wildlife. Now Pa is also pulling funding on Brown Bat. Soon all animals will be killed for some obscure reason like Buffalo/Wolves.
Funny thing is the Wildlife, Fish and Game are going to Town Meetings to tell story of herps and other lil creatures. This is again a push by Gov and Oil to quell fears of Fracking Dangers...again too many people hurting for jobs are taking money to allow this Toxin Scam Industry to continue.

It will affect the USA as a whole. I cannot wait until those who believe it is good thing have to pay hundreds of dollars for a gallon of water. They have worked against the Environmentalis ts because they live off what we do for them. We cannot stop what will happen when over 200 Toxic Chemicals surface in water supplies, farms, homes, schools as it has before.
Who will save them...I blame people for all of what is going on. They have the ability to stand up and be counted but instead they have a remote, what more do they need
Is England being affected yet by these frack liars?
+6 # DakotaKid 2012-10-14 06:40
This is good information and it's too bad more people don't drop everything and join street demonstrations, but the harsh realities of political power in Plutocratic America are such that nothing short of an electoral tsunami will stop Big Oil and Gas from drilling and fracking at will. Until voters start paying attention and thinking for themselves, they will continue to vote like lemmings marching into the sea. The ONLY thing that will turn this country around now is for voters to turn against incumbents of both parties en masse (especially smug elitist business-can-do -no-wrong Republicans). What our lawmakers want more than anything else is to get re-elected because they have the best job money can buy. When they discover how much a vote in Congress is worth they sell it to the highest bidder. And they get away with it because we (the voters) let them. There's only one thing that's more powerful (and precious) than the money Super Pacs and the Super Rich give members of Congress. Our votes.
0 # BobbyLip 2012-10-16 08:34
Don't mind me, I'm just testing.

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