Blockade Showdown Against Fracking Pipeline in Manhattan

by Shannon Ayala


Activists gathered yesterday at a sanitation pier near the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan where Spectra Energy has begun construction on a natural gas pipeline (which partially picks up gas in the Marcellus Shale area where hydrofracking currently takes place in Pennsylvania). Some of the participants had been there since four a.m. awaiting a potential shipment of materials for construction at the driveway of the pier. Dozens, possibly over a hundred more activists came by the day’s end and waited until after dark, planning to return at daybreak.

“As I understand it, the group is going to try to stop a shipment of materials used to build the pipeline,” said a man who streams events at Soon after speeches were made, police gathered at the site and a large meeting formed while others leafletted on the greenway.

It wasn’t certain that a blockade was definitely going to happen. In a speech, Monica Hunken announced that they planned on giving Spectra a letter. However, Reverend Billy (Talen) of the Church of of Life After Shopping, in a casual aside, mentioned that the action comes at a moment when environmental actions have been more intense. “All across the country there are four or five different points where, in Pennsylvania and in Texas, various places where people have stopped [fossil fuel] operations.” He adds that several escalated antifracking direct actions just in recent days have happened. For example a large rally blockaded a fracking facility in Horsehead, New York.

The resistance to the Spectra Pipeline (the NJ-NY Expansion Project) in particular has escalated to constant, apparently verging on militant, direct action after the project’s approval several months ago. Last week, for example, the same coalition of environmental organizations festively marched and held radon-die-ins amidst the nightlife of the chic Meatpacking District.

Radon, just one talking point that was thrown in somewhere along the way and had gradually become a more significant ground, has been assigned insignificance by scientific parties. An industry-funded study reported by Dr. Lynn Anspaugh stated that gas along points of the existing pipeline was measured for radon between June 26th and July 3rd and it was concluded that the gas was not quite radioactive enough to meet the concern. The Marcellus Shale area is known to be highly more radioactive than other sources of gas but these studies argue that the radon dissipates even by the time it gets to New Jersey.

However, the coalition may continue to cite radon as a threat but it’s number nine out of ten in a pink pamphlet listing reasons to oppose the Spectra Pipeline. The top three points deal with safety.

“It’s supposed to be coming in at the rate of 800 (million) cubic feet of gas per 24 hours,” says Talen. “It’s thirty inches across, in some places forty inches in others.” The implication is that the greater the size and pressure the pipeline, the greater the explosion.

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