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Launch 'Week of Respect and Resistance' Protests in Opposition to Expansion of Fracked Natural Gas Pipeline

Posted Dec. 17, 2014

MP3 Report on a direct action protest in Connecticut in opposition to the proposed expansion of a fracked natural gas pipeline through four northeastern states, produced by Melinda Tuhus

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Grassroots groups from four states along the proposed route of the Spectra Energy company’s fracked natural gas pipeline expansion project, which cuts through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, are organizing a coordinated “Week of Respect and Resistance.” The protest actions in opposition to the project are being held between Dec. 13 and 19. Activists are participating in rallies, visits to the offices of elected officials to urge them to oppose the project and non-violent civil disobedience actions where they’ll risk arrest.

One such action was held as the sun came up on Dec. 15 in Cromwell, Connecticut, at the site of a compressor station owned by Spectra Energy. Fifteen protesters blocked the driveway of the compressor, and two men who had chained themselves together, Vittorio Lancia, 74, and Daniel Fischer, 25, were arrested by local police and face three misdemeanor charges. As part of its expansion plan, Spectra would increase the number of compressor stations to push more gas through the pipeline, which will be increased from 26 inches in diameter to 42 inches.

Nick Katkevich, an organizer with the group Fighting Against Natural Gas, or FANG, explained the goal of the weeklong protest: “It's time for Spectra and our elected officials to respect our power and respect our desire to see a world powered by community-owned renewable energy. Even if this pipeline project is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other government agencies," he warned, "our resistance will only escalate." Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus filed this report from the site of the Dec. 15 pipeline protest action in Cromwell, Connecticut.

POLICE OFFICER: Police officer calling for backup: We got some protesters out here, a couple guys that are chained up blocking entry in and out of the business, stating that the gas pipe companies are ruining the earth.

BETWEEN THE LINES: If you just give me your name and tell me why you’re here.

DAN FISCHER: I’m Dan Fischer. I’m with Capitalism versus the Climate. We’re here because politicians say fracked gas is a bridge fuel. We say, no, it’s a bridge to nowhere. We’ve built a bridge to nowhere and chained ourselves to it right on the driveway of this compressor station. This compressor station is right next to a middle school and a public park. It emits hazardous air pollutants that are linked with leukemia, kidney and liver damage, lung damage and brain impacts. We’re protesting against Spectra’s pipeline expansion, which would expand this compressor station, along with others. It would build new routes carrying highly flammable methane gas right next to a nuclear power plant at Indian Point. This is very dangerous, and it increases fracking and it increases climate change. So we’re saying no to the politicians, no to Spectra Energy. Stop compromising our future! Stop compromising the liveability of this planet.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Vic Lancia is a long-time activist from Middletown, CT, who locked down next to Dan Fischer.

VIC LANCIA: I’m here because our elected officials are not looking out for us. So I’m here to take a direct action as a citizen of this country, and of this planet. I have a high respect for life. I think climate change is real. It’s very urgent; the time is very short. For that I’m perfectly willing to sit here and take the consequences.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You got some little pads there. It’s probably a little warmer and a little more comfy than sitting on.

VIC LANCIA: Right, we’re trying to be comfortable.

DAN FISCHER: The cops asked us if we’d be willing to move the bridge so we weren’t blocking traffic.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Did you notice the truck that went right behind you, across the...

DAN FISCHER: Yeah. You see, our goal today is not primarily to block business here. It is primarily to, number one, block the misconception that somehow fracked gas is clean, and number two, to make the point that we can get in the way. When Spectra starts expanding the pipeline next year, we’re gonna be back with more people and more resolve. If the government doesn’t stop the pipeline expansioin, we are certainly going to try our hardest to stop it ourselves.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Last week I spoke to Rob Klee, who is the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or DEEP. He is totally supportive of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s plan to expand access to fracked gas in the state. He even called it a “bridge fuel.” You know, it’s been in the news all over the place, and I actually talked to the commissioner of DEEP last week, and there was a big article in the (New York) Times yesterday that the reason the gas prices and home heating prices with gas are going up so much is there’s a constriction in the number of pipelines in New England, so we have to build more so people can get the gas. Does anyone want to comment on that?

VIC LANCIA: We have the technology for renewables now. A long time ago, Ralph Nader said, They don’t want solar energy because they can’t put a meter on it. They have all their money in fossil fuels. They’re going to get their money. I think greed is a sickness, and these people are just finding all kinds of excuses and reasons to go ahead and do what they’re going to do.

BETWEEN THE LINES: At that moment one of the officers approached two men.

POLICE OFFICER: You know that you’re going to be arrested, correct?

DAN FISCHER: If that’s what you’re going to do, then okay.

POLICE OFFICER: Are those locked?

DAN FISCHER AND VIC LANCIA: Yes.

POLICE OFFICER: Do you want to unlock them or should I use my bolt cutters?

DAN FISCHER: We’re not going to unlock.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Fischer and Lancia went limp after being arrested and were carried to two patrol cars by several officers. They were charged with three misdemeanors and were released from jail on a promise to appear in court next week. They say they plan to use the necessity defense, meaning they took action in order to prevent a greater harm. From Cromwell, Connecticut, I’m Melinda Tuhus for Between The Lines.

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