September 20, 2017

Pipeline Continues New York’s Shame

I spent a recent Sunday in New Milford, Pennsylvania and was reminded of what life is like in a gas field.

I drove on pitted county roads turned into industrial thoroughfares for chemical and waste transport. I spoke with landowners who felt powerless to combat an industry that has claimed their land through eminent domain, and threatened the health of their families by siting toxic and explosive infrastructure in close proximity to their homes.

I heard stories of family members and neighbors who no longer speak with each other. I saw more poverty than prosperity, and felt more desperation than promise. I spoke with educated young people who love the home of their birth but don’t know how to plan for a future in a landscape where land can be taken by eminent domain with no recourse.

And I heard over and over again how lucky I was to live in a state that had banned this toxic industry.

But I had a hard time feeling lucky when standing witness to the further ruination of that already assaulted rural landscape by clear cutting of the forest for Constitution Pipeline.

I heard chainsaws deep in the woods. I heard the crash of trees. I stood along a right of way where a 100-foot-wide swath of mature trees had been felled in less than three days. I heard the indignation in landowners’ voices when describing their dealings with Williams and Cabot. I stood beneath tapped maple trees in a young woman’s sugar bush slated to be cut any day. I watched as the gas company’s signature white pickup trucks carrying crews of tree cutters hopscotched the pipeline route in an apparent effort to avoid those attempting to document the destruction.

And I felt anything but lucky or proud. I felt ashamed and powerless. Ashamed of the complicity of my state of New York in this destruction. Powerless to stop it.

But I am not powerless, nor are those determined people I embraced. We have our voices and our bodies and the vote, and we will use every peaceful resource at our disposal to call the world’s attention to this horror. And it is a horror, because we know that we cannot continue down this road of extracting and burning fossil fuels, puttingprofits before people.

Until we face the fact that the fossil fuels that remain in the ground must be left in the ground, we will continue to do irreparable damage to this Earth. Future generations will suffer not for our lack of knowledge, but for our lack of action. We will all have been complicit.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo must deny Constitution a 401 Water Quality Certificate. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman must reiterate his opposition to this illegal commencement of construction. And we must give them the political backing to be our heroes.

This is New York’s opportunity to forge a path to a renewable energy future, for our state, our country and our planet Earth.

How proud we could be.

By Trellan Smith, Oxford resident.