National Rally Says 'No!' to Fracked Gas Exports from Maryland and Other Proposed Sites Nationwide

Posted July 16, 2014

MP3 Excerpt of speech by Sandra Steingraber, biologist, author and activist with New Yorkers Against Fracking, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

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On July 13, 2,000 people turned out in Washington, D.C. to protest the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC's, likely approval of a liquefied natural gas export facility in Cove Point, Maryland. The LNG port was originally built as an import terminal before fracking led to vastly increased natural gas production, which companies hope to export to consumers globally. Protesters voiced opposition to what they called FERC's rubber-stamping of big energy projects. The director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the group which organized the rally, asserted that the commission has never denied a permit for a big electrical or gas project.

The Cove Point terminal, owned by Dominion Energy, is located in a middle-class community on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. If the proposed conversion from an import to export terminal is approved, critics say many more heavy industry components will be added, increasing the likelihood of an accident, such as a deadly vapor cloud.

People gathered on the national mall for a rally before winding through the streets of the capital to the offices of FERC. The next morning, two dozen protesters were arrested when they engaged in civil disobedience blocking the entrances to the building and the parking garage. The activists’ goal in the action was to raise the stakes while raising awareness of the issue among the general public and FERC employees. Sandra Steingraber, one of the speakers at the protest rally in Washington, is a biologist, author and anti-fracking activist from New York state, which has thus far managed to maintain a fracking moratorium. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus was at the rally and recorded the following excerpt of Steingraber’s speech.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: We New Yorkers Against Fracking pledge our support, our assistance and our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Maryland who are fighting the LNG terminal in Cove Point. Our destinies are intertwined; our success depends on yours! (Applause)

Now, let me tell you about another small community in New York state. It's called Rossville, and it's located on Staten Island. When you go to Rossville, the first thing you see are two hulking, 10-story tall tanks that cast a shadow over the whole community. They are 40 years old and they are empty. They have always been empty; they are rusting and birds now fly in and out of them. They were built to hold LNG, but they were never filled with LNG. Why? Because of the actions of a community group in Rossville called Bring Legal Action to Stop Tanks; the acronym is BLAST. BLAST worked for 13 years to close those tanks down. They ignored the counsel of those who said it couldn't be done; that the tanks were already built; that of course they would be filled with LNG, that it was all inevitable. They ignored the idea that you could not fight the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In the end, they also won! (cheers)

Among the leaders of that community group was Gene Cosgrove and his wife, Edwina. Their house was located right next to one of these tanks. They knew they would be instantly vaporized if an explosion occurred there. So why didn't they just move? Because Gene and Edwina had 18 children and very little money. Their church had helped them to find this house and they knew they had no alternative but to plant their flag and fight. Gene and Edwina Cosgrove spent 13 years protesting, testifying and attending every public hearing. They were also motivated by love. And they were compelled to redouble their efforts in February 1973 when another LNG tank on Staten Island's northwest shore blew up, crushing 40 workers to death. The firefighters on the scene said the resulting fire was something out of Dante's Inferno. That tank was empty too, but it had been filled with LNG months earlier, and investigators said the explosion was triggered by pockets of gas trapped in the tank's liner. That explosion mobilized thousands of Staten Islanders to begin a fight to ensure a similar disaster would never happen again. So thanks to their work, we have a ban on LNG in New York State. (applause)

My friends, the baton that Gene and Edwina Cosgrove carried in 1973 has been passed to us, and what has changed since the terrible LNG conflagration that killed 40 Staten Islanders 40 years ago? Nothing about the inherent hazards of LNG has changed. LNG is still a cryogenic fluid that must be stored at minus 259 degrees F. LNG will still flash freeze human tissue on contact. LNG is still heavier than air and will slither down drainage and sewer pipes and spread underground, and as it disperses, an LNG vapor cloud will still be combustible. Once ignited, an LNG pool of fire still creates high winds and spreads thermal heat to distant locations. LNG can still trigger other fires and burn human flesh hundreds of feet away. LNG is still a known terrorist target. And as in 1973, an LNG fire is still not extinguishable by any known firefighting technique.

But here is what is different. In 1973, we didn't know yet about climate change. In 1973, we had never heard about fracking. Our stakes are so much higher today. So as we go about our work, to do for Cove Point what the people of Rossvillle and Staten Island did for New York, we have something else to say, and it is this: To the FERC and to President Obama, we say we are not willing to blow up the bedrock of our nation in order to extract the fossil fuel called methane, that will in turn blow up our climate, and we are not willing to liquify the results, using more fossil fuels and so give methane a passport to foreign markets and so further entrench a fossil fuel dependency around the globe in a time of climate emergency. We say 'No' to that! (Applause).

And in doing the hard work to stop the Cove Point facility, which is first and foremost a human rights struggle, we need to know that we don't have to be tireless and fearless. I'm tired and scared all the time. We just have to keep working even though we are tired and scared. That's what Gene and Edwina did with 18 children in tow. They fought with their whole hearts, and that is what we are here to do. They fought to win, and they did win, and because we are fighting for life itself, and because we have science, economics and human rights on our side, and because we all lose if the gas industry gets to use our drinking water as the club to frack the bedrock beneath our homes, and so turn our communities into a methane extraction colony. I am also intending to win! Thank you.

And in doing the hard work to stop the Cove Point facility, which is first and foremost a human rights struggle, we need to know that we don't have to be tireless and fearless. I'm tired and scared all the time. We just have to keep working even though we are tired and scared. That's what Gene and Edwina did with 18 children in tow. They fought with their whole hearts, and that is what we are here to do. They fought to win, and they did win, and because we are fighting for life itself, and because we have science, economics and human rights on our side, and because we all lose if the gas industry gets to use our drinking water as the club to frack the bedrock beneath our homes, and so turn our communities into a methane extraction colony, I am also intending to win! Thank you.

And in doing the hard work to stop the Cove Point facility, which is first and foremost a human rights struggle, we need to know that we don't have to be tireless and fearless. I'm tired and scared all the time. We just have to keep working even though we are tired and scared. That's what Gene and Edwina did with 18 children in tow. They fought with their whole hearts, and that is what we are here to do. They fought to win, and they did win, and because we are fighting for life itself, and because we have science, economics and human rights on our side, and because we all lose if the gas industry gets to use our drinking water as the club to frack the bedrock beneath our homes, and so turn our communities into a methane extraction colony, I am also intending to win! Thank you.

For more information about New Yorkers Against Fracking, visit nyagainstfracking.org.

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