Friday, October 7, 2016

Day in Court: Civil Disobedience Update

Catz and I celebrating our resolution! 

Day in Court: Arrest Update

BOSTON - Oct 5th 2016
Phew! Here I am with one of my trench-mates, Catz. We left the West Roxbury Court House feeling pretty elated and very, very fortunate. She and I, along with a young man, who was underage, had been #182, #183 and #184 to be arrested trying to stop this crazy-bad pipeline. His case was resolved separately. And we had quite a wrangle figuring out what to do about our legal situation following our arrest on August 31th, 2016.  The DA's office was not happy with  and had upped the ante of consequences. But on this Tuesday, as over 20 fellow protesters were processed at different stages and for various charges, we were lucky. Our charges were reduced to a civil infraction rather like a parking ticket and if (I mean when !) we don't get arrested in the next six months it will be completely dismissed! No record! Huge thanks to the legal team: Mark MacMahon, Joshua Raisler Cohn and court support from Resist! 

We went right back to work to! After lunch we held up banners with other pipeline fighting-folk at Spectra's offices in Westwood. There Spectra hosted a "safety meeting" with first responders. Can you say vertigo? Wish I could have been inside to witness the spin! Likely to need dramamine. More on that later.  We stood in silent witness across from Spectra's corporate offices, taking care not to trespass by standing in Frugal Fannies parking lot. As we held "Stop Spectra" banners in a blustery wind, our elected officials came and shook each of our hands and thanked us, in full view of the windows of Spectra's regional HQ. We felt they had our backs! One of the officials in the room later described the safety measures he heard at the meeting as "horseshit."
Oct 5th. We are standing across from Spectra, HQ. Our Boston Delegation shook our hands in full view of Spectra's reps.

Below is a press release I wrote for Resist on our Civil Disobedience.

WEST ROXBURY, MA - One crop that has not failed in this summer's record drought was nonviolent resisters of new fossil fuel infrastructure. And? The number of those ready to commit nonviolent civil disobedience, risk arrest to help halt climate change and stop Spectra's corporate bullying in West Roxbury continues to grow. To date, 200 concerned citizens have peacefully but forcefully broken the law to stop Texas-based Spectra's construction of the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. In the next two weeks alone, over 50 protesters will make court appearances at West Roxbury District Court. Charged variously with Trespass, Disturbing the Peace Reckless Destruction of Property and Disorderly Persons, some defendants will be offered and take plea deals. Others will refuse the "deals" and chose to go to trial. Yet others may chose to defend themselves and make their court appearance a broader statement.

“We tried community meetings, rallies, day time and night time vigils and protests. We marched in the heat of summer and through the snow. TV stations covered us and we talked on radio shows. We knocked on doors, leafletted, wrote letters, gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, sent letters to the media and made multiple visits to politicians. We were completely flummoxed by the fact that our elected officials are powerless to protect us," said Mary Boyle, lending a backstory to the development of civil disobedience in West Roxbury.

Pipeline outside of Spectra's HQ in Westwood.
" Nonviolent civil disobedience seemed like a worthwhile tool to use. Civil disobedience actually stops construction and brings attention to our outrage. Our call to action is not a self-centered, knee-jerk, NIMBY but rather a forward thinking, rational and responsive, 'Not here. Not anywhere!' ” - Mary Boyle, West Roxbury neighbor leader, activist and pipeline opponent.
"Bullying that endangers the public safety of my friends and neighbors, while contributing to climate change during one of the hottest summers on record made civil disobedience an imperative for me. " - Norah Dooley, from Brookline, activist and pipeline opponent.
"Why are we allowing Spectra to build more dirty energy infrastructure when we need to be taking it down and building clean energy infrastructure?” - Hendrix Berry of Jamaica Plain, when asked about her decision to risk arrest.
"This pipeline represents the failure of our government to have an energy policy that does not risk the future of my grandchildren." - Reverend Martha Neibanck of Jamaica Plain, when asked about her decision to risk arrest

When resisters refuse to comply with orders to remove themselves from construction sites they are engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. When common law is leading to destruction of people and their homes as ‘sacrifice zones’, jeopardizing global food systems, waterways, air quality, and forest vitality, accelerating coastal erosion, permafrost melting, coral reef bleaching, titanic forest fires, and city-engulfing flood rains it is time to "disobey." from Resist the Pipeline's website.

The West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, a new “off-ramp” from Spectra’s existing Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline,  will carry fracked gas from shale deposits in Pennsylvania though New York, CT and Rhode Island. Fracked gas is a fossil fuel whose extraction has caused significant environmental damage and whose main ingredient, methane, is a highly toxic greenhouse gas (over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years in the atmosphere).

Capable of carrying gas at up to 750 psi (pounds per square inch)-- more than twice the pressure of the pipeline that exploded in San Bruno, CA in 2010, killing and injuring many residents and causing widespread property damage--the WRL is a “transmission” pipeline meant for rural or secluded areas.  It is  similar to the pipeline that recently exploded in a rural area some 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, knocking out four other nearby pipelines and seriously injuring a man when his home was destroyed by fire.  The accident is still under investigation, but Spectra says it may cost upwards of  $100 million to repair the damage.

By comparison, the West Roxbury Lateral runs through residential neighborhoods, only feet from some homes and near schools, businesses, a nursing home, under a soccer field in Dedham, and across from an active quarry in West Roxbury where regular blasting over the years has caused damage to homes in the area.

As with all natural gas pipelines, Spectra won approval for the WRL, with little opportunity for public comment,  from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), whose commissioners have all served as executives in the natural gas industry.  The project has met strong local resistance from both citizens and elected officials, including Mayor Walsh, the Boston City Council, State Representative Coppinger, State Senator Walsh, and Congressman Lynch.

Both the City of Boston and Town of Dedham have filed lawsuits against the project, citing numerous flaws in the environmental review and approval process and seeking an overturn of FERC’s approval. Hearings or trials are expected this fall in the D.C. Circuit Court.

At the urging of many of their constituents, U.S. Senators Markey and Warren have also voiced some concern to FERC but not strong opposition to the project, a stance that has perplexed and disappointed many residents..

To date, 194 people have been arrested in peaceful civil disobedience against the WRL. They include Michael Butler, the Select Board Chair from Dedham who was the first to be arrested;  Karenna Gore, daughter of former Vice President Al Gore; Tim DeChristopher, well known climate activist; and dozens of local clergy. West Roxbury neighbors and their concerned allies.

Meanwhile, other community groups are fighting other gas infrastructure projects still in the planning stage, particularly in eastern Mass. and including Spectra’s  proposed compressor stations in Weymouth. Opponents cite evidence that much of the new gas is actually intended for export, not to meet local needs.