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Important Day Looming/Tale of Two Cities/Live and Learn


I write because tomorrow (Tuesday 11/7/17) is election day. First, I urge all registered voters to fulfill their civic duty. Second, I write to underscore that one of the key strategies of our successful campaign to safeguard New York from shale fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure hazards is that activists must hold elected officials strictly accountable for their actions.

This edict particularly applies to the Dryden Town Board because local officials failed to take sufficient action to stop the only interstate fracked gas pipeline expansion project being built in Upstate New York.

These construction pictures are heart-breaking to behold: Dominion New Market Pipeline Expansion of Borger Compressor Station in Dryden, NY

Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

I write today to compare the stunning differences between the tragic failure to prevent construction of the Dominion New Market Pipeline in the Town of Dryden and an effort in the Town of Fenton that has succeeded, so far, in stopping a compressed natural gas truck transfer "virtual pipeline."

These two battles underscore why our campaign has been so successful and how the margin for error in these extremely challenging fights is very small indeed. Our Fenton campaign basically replicated our successful Constitution, Northeast Energy Direct (NED) and Northern Access Pipeline campaigns as well as our Arlington Expanded Gas Storage effort. The Dryden fight ended badly because some citizens, outside groups and academics took independent actions that led to disastrous divisions in the grassroots ranks.

Fenton is Winning

First, the success story. In the Town of Fenton, our campaign worked with residents who were unified in strongly opposing a proposed "virtual pipeline" project approved by local officials. Those residents organized themselves into a formidable fighting force, stormed Town meetings and took legal action along with a church located near the proposed facility as well as the Chenango Valley school district. Their litigation miraculously overturned the project approval and sent it back to local authorities for a do-over.

Concurrently, Toxics Targeting generated extensive press coverage by documenting compressed natural gas accidents across New York and providing a "sensitive receptor" analysis of the thousands of homes and structures threatened by the proposed project. Our fossil fuel infrastructure moratorium letter and relentless phonebanking cranked up the heat on Governor Cuomo to DENY approval for this project because it would perpetuate New York's addiction to fracked gas.

The overall result is that two members of the local planning board quit, Fenton's pro-fracking State Senator opposed the proposed facility location and Governor Cuomo got deluged with requests not to issue a key State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System General Permit for Construction Activities which was earlier granted as a formality without any state oversight. To date, the proposed project has made little progress toward approval the second time around.

Massive Dominion New Market Pipeline Expansion in Dryden

The highly effective Fenton effort makes the Dominion New Market Pipeline debacle in Dryden all the more painful.

This is the Town that takes credit for its role in the home rule fracking decision and purports to support sustainable energy alternatives.

First, Town of Dryden officials granted all local approvals required for a massive pipeline expansion project that will add a whopping "112,000 dekatherms (Dth) per day of firm transportation service." That is the equivalent of 112 MILLION CUBIC FEET/DAY of fracked gas.

Second, the Town Board took no effective effort to rescind local and state approvals for the proposed pipeline expansion. One excuse after another was offered. The Town also failed to enforce its own Public Utility Approval Moratorium or its comprehensive land-use plan with regard to the pipeline project.

Third, opposition to the proposed project could not be unified. First, outside groups argued against the pipeline expansion based on concerns about air discharge permits that are granted on a pro forma basis or merely as a formality. Second, local sustainable energy advocates evidently cared more about supporting a proposed solar farm than blocking the massive fracked gas pipeline expansion. Third, activists requested compressor technology upgrades and before-after ambient air testing that Dominion rejected. All of those strategic failures diffused direct opposition to the pipeline expansion and provided political cover for Town officials.

United we stand, divided we fall. Live and learn.

Onward and upward,