By CHRISTINE MARIE
On Nov. 16, New York State troopers began their roundup of climate activists locked down to a tractor partially blocking the entrance of the Dover Plains, N.Y., construction site of the Cricket Valley power plant by announcing “This is private property. You are trespassing.” A lone protester responded, “This is nationalized! It is the people’s property!” Sadly, this is not actually the case. The Cricket Valley Energy Center project remains firmly in the control of some of the biggest banks and funds in the U.S. and abroad, all of whom want to cash in on the fracked gas boom.
The retort does signal, however, the defiant attitude that many of the youth fighting for climate justice exhibit toward the corporate-controlled energy economy and those who choose to defend them. Around 100 demonstrators braved the 35-degree Fahrenheit weather to show solidarity with those carrying out this direct action, which also involved youth camped out at the top of one the enormous towers looming over the site.
Signs often featured flames and the slogan “The Earth is Burning.” Puppeteers enacted a narrative about species extinction. Activist Janet Apuzzo, when asked how this action related to a greater strategy around climate change, indicated that she saw it as just one step in the effort to replace capitalism with an economy based on the needs of humans and maintaining the whole natural world.
The crowd was mixed, with many young people, students, workers, and some who farm nearby, as well as many long-time veterans of the battle for clean energy and water in the states of New York and Connecticut. The action on Nov. 16 was part of a multi-year comprehensive campaign to stop Cricket Valley. It is a coalition effort that combines legislative efforts, electoral initiatives, and demonstrations of all kinds, with protests ranging from the construction site in Dover Plains to the state capital in Albany and the offices of targeted investors and enablers in Manhattan.
The groups backing the campaign include the local Stop Cricket Valley Energy, the Sane Energy Project, various 350.org chapters, PauseEnergy.org, New York Communities for Change, Friends of the Earth, the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, the New York-New Jersey Stop the Pilgrim Pipeline, Stop the Williams Pipeline in N.Y. Harbor, Rise and Resist, Food & Water Watch of New York, Resist Spectra of Peekskill, N.Y., Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline, and Stop the Danskammer Fracked Gas Plant. Just listing the names of groups suggests the number of fronts and the many clusters of resistance to the continued corporate push for fracked gas power to replace coal, oil, and nuclear energy.
The movement’s opponents in the Cricket Valley fight are very powerful. The CVEC is slated to be the largest fracked gas power plant in the Northeast and will produce 1100 megawatts of electricity. According to Derek Seidman (“Five Things to Know About the Cricket Valley Fracked Gas Plant,” Aug. 9, 2018), the plant is sited in order to receive fracked gas from the TransCanada-owned Iroquois Gas Transmission System and the Virginia-based fossil fuel giant Dominion Resources. A Swiss-based private energy infrastructure company will own and operate the plant.
Research by Seidman has revealed the degree to which the pledges of banks, pension funds, and other financial institutions to stop investing in fossil fuel projects are often a slight of hand. The money manager TIAA, which invests the funds of many universities, unions, and municipalities that have voted to divest, is a major investor in CVEC. A dozen U.S. and international banks have put up hundreds of billions in funded debt to get the project off the ground.
All of this investment is sustaining a project whose emissions will be disastrous for the climate. According to Robert W. Howarth, perhaps the leading researcher on methane in the United States, there is now no doubt, due to chemical analysis, that the huge increases in methane in the atmosphere since 2008 are coming from fracked gas, not agriculture or other sources (European Geosciences Union, “Fracking prompts global spike in atmospheric methane, study suggests,” Science Daily, Aug. 14, 2019). Between 2008 and 2014, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has risen from 570 million tons to 595 million tons a year. The spike is meaningful because it suggests that halting new fracked gas infrastructure—given how quickly methane dissipates in the atmosphere—could buy humanity precious time in the race to keep global temperature lower than the critical 2 degree celsius average global rise. Methane reduction, Dr. Howarth points out, “is the low hanging fruit” of emergency measures.
Activists from Connecticut returned from the Cricket Valley protest determined to find a way to put stopping a proposed fracked gas power plant in Killingly, Conn., at the forefront of the state’s climate action agenda. Despite the election of a “green” Democratic governor, who has issued executive orders pledging to prioritize measures to slow climate change, his administration quickly approved an expansion of the state’s fracked gas infrastructure. Only mobilizations independent of his administration, ever growing in size and breadth, can expose the double-talk, stop the plant from going online, and leave the movement positioned to take on the many other emergency measures needed. 350 CT will address this issue at the upcoming Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 Youth Climate Strikes at the state capitol in Hartford.
Photo: Fred Linck / Socialist Resurgence