In the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, Spectra Energy was building a fracked-gas pipeline off of their existing AIM pipeline. Beginning in October of 2015, Resist The Pipeline began a campaign of climate disobedience, getting in the way of active pipeline construction.
The campaign grew, and eventually 198 people (Serendipity much?) were arrested over the course of a year. Starting March 27, 12 of those defendants, including our friend and Climate Disobedience Center co-founder Tim DeChristopher and Director of the Center for Earth Ethics of at Union Theological Seminary Karenna Gore (daughter of Al) are going to trial.
The activists are committed to mounting a climate necessity defense, arguing that they had no reasonable alternative to putting themselves in the path of the pipeline’s construction. If the jury is allowed to decide whether the defendants’ actions were necessary in order to prevent a greater harm, we’ll have a legal precedent that communities across the country can use in their own resistance to pipelines and other infrastructure.
Activists like Tim and Karenna stood up in front of construction equipment and laid themselves down in the path of destruction. Now, they will stand up for us all in court.
They will tell the jury why their actions were not only justified, but also necessary: the community and their elected leaders fought this pipeline through the regulatory process for years – striking out in appeals with agencies we know well like FERC. But when the system is broken, it takes a sustained campaign of resistance like this to stop destruction. These activists hoped not only to protect their community in West Roxbury, but to spark our collective moral imagination and empower communities to build resistance against pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure everywhere.
This will be the first climate necessity case in the United States in two years, and climate champions and experts, including Bill McKibben and Dr. James Hansen, are planning to testify to make the case that we are in an emergency, and emergency measures – even if they break existing law – are justified in order to prevent a greater harm.
Early this year, Ryan Zinke, Trump’s Interior Secretary, announced a new plan that would open more than 90% of US coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. It’s a really really bad plan, since offshore oil drilling always leads to more spills and accidents.And if anything, Trump’s other actions to roll back protections for the environment and worker safety will make accidents even MORE likely. Plus, there’s simply no way to manage the decline of fossil fuels and create the 100% renewable powered economy we need to stop climate change if we open up millions of new acres to offshore drilling. Which is why the Obama administration just banned all drilling off the Atlantic and pacific coasts 2 years ago after a HUGE public comment period in which more than 3 million people, dozens of governors, hundreds of mayors and just about everyone who lives along the coast clearly said #NoDrilling. Loads more footnotes and references in this pst from early in the comment period. As usual for this White House, the rollout was chaotic and ham-handed, and the whole thing may not even be legal because Zinke tried to exempt just the state of Florida as an explicit political favor to Governor Rick Scott who wants to run for US Senate. More on that later.
All of which brings me back to why I wanted 198 to work on offshore drilling plan in the first place, and how your actions with us really make a difference: First – It’s about an important concept in Gene Sharp’s writings and teachings called ‘withholding consent’. When we fight climate change, we’re fighting a really BIG system. It involves money and power at a lot of different levels. Fundamentally, it’s also an autocratic system – meaning it’s accountable to a ruling elite, not to the people or the planet. At 198 methods, we’re convinced that fighting climate change requires a specifically anti-authoritarian approach. Like what we did at the BOEM hearings: by standing up speaking out in ways that BOEM didn’t condone (and threatened to throw us out or shut down the hearings over) we put the staff of this administrative agency in a bind. We’re asking them to consciously choose NOT to do their jobs, if that’s what it takes, in order to stop the greater harms of offshore drilling. We’re demonstrating, in a really physical, in-your-face way, that there will be a reckoning — we know most of the people are commenting in opposition to offshore drilling. We know that the consequences of this offshore drilling plan will threaten us all through climate chaos, oil spills and more. And we’re asking them to pick a side: with us or with the polluters. Second – It’s about inspiring people who are already part of the process to realize they have more power than just typing a comment into a laptop — including our allies in groups like the Sierra Club and Oceana that did not support our efforts to stand up and disrupt the hearings in advance. I noted after the SC hearing that I saw a lot of groups advocating a sort of NIMBY (Not In My backyard) strategy. Basically, they were trying to convince BOEM to give them the same exemption Zinke gave Florida (which, again, may not hold up in court). They did this either through explicit argument, like by siting the value of their coastal tourism economies, for example; Or through an implicitly political argument, like by having lots of Republicans or state-wide officials testify that they are opposed to drilling, which helps make the argument that Trump & Co. will lose support in the mid-term elections if they push forward with the plan. But I think that’s the wrong approach for two reasons: one, as outlined below, it fails to move the media narrative and focusses attention on our weakest and least reliable partners. More importantly, it uses a NIMBY argument when what we need is a NIABY argument – Not in ANYBODY’s Back Yard. We don’t just want to ban offshore drilling in South Carolina, or California, or in places that have Republican Governor’s, or in places with coastal tourism: We want to ban offshore drilling – ALL of it – because it’s way to dangerous for our communities and our planet. Third – It’s about inspiring everyone who’s not part of the process yet. Two years ago, more than 3 million people and hundreds of academics, researchers, churches, and all kinds of organizations commented in opposition to offshore drilling (all of it). Obama responded by banning drilling off the Atlantic and mainland US Pacific coasts, but allowed it to continue in the “sacrifice zones” of the Gulf of Mexico and much of Alaska. That was basically what the conventional wisdom in the media expected, and so it was ‘enough’ to turn out lots and lots of comments so that Obama would feel empowered to do that. But there is no conventional wisdom for what Trump is doing. He’s already given away more land to fossil fuels, and more brazenly, than anyone imagined a few years ago. And, dazzled by the sheer, crazy, deluge of horribleness, the main stream media (like that Washington post story) default to covering this as a ‘normal’ political story where there are people for drilling, and people against it, and BOEM is a sort of neutral mediator. To stop Trump and team’s plan we need to be bigger, more powerful, and reach more people. That means working outside of the conventional wisdom of what works in the media and political wisdom. We can’t wait for Trump to come to his senses, or be satisfied with incremental NIIMBY victories any longer. Honestly, it will probably mean more of us lining up on roads and paddling our kayaks in front of drilling rigs to stop them. That’s movement building work – not lobbying and media work. And to inspire people, a LOT of people to rise up against big authoritarian power of the petro-state as represented by this offshore drilling plan, we need to inspire people. And that, fundamentally, is why we do digitally supported direct actions JUST LIKE THIS! Look, there are enough of us, in America, to stop offshore drilling, reverse climate change and build the 100% renewable fossil free world we need. What’s more, we’ll all have more jobs, more money, more political power and more control over our daily lives when we do. What’s holding us back is the raw political power (fueled by money, fear, and a lot of other things) of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in power – like the Trump administration. but to mobilize those people, we need to show them that resistance is possible, that it works, that it feels good (if I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution) and most importantly that they have the power.
So, what next?
Glad you asked. First of all, if you liked our actions and the ideas in this post, please chip in to support us. If everybody who sent in a public comment with us gave $1.98, we’d have more than enough money to fund our entire operation for 6 months. Of Course, not everyone can donate, so if you’re in a position to give a little, please consider a weekly donation of $1.98, or a gift of $19.80 to support our ongoing work. Second – it’s not too late to submit your comment, and even if you already sent one in with us, or with another group, hang on and consider this new tool as well. Working with our friends at Daily Kos and Action Network, we’ve set up a new comment form that delivers your comments directly to the BOEM staff in charge of this docket. I’ll still deliver all the 14,000+ signatures you sent in through the in-person deliveries, and I’ll submit them as evidence before the March 9 deadline. But by also submitting a comment through this new form, you’ll essentially get two comments — and that can be really helpful for when our friends in the legal community go to court to challenge this rule. Being able to cite the fact that there were a LOT of comments, and also to pull out individual voices of opposition from the public record, will be really helpful. So, if you haven’t commented, please do so now. And if you already have, comment again!
The week kicked off with an action in Louisiana led by LA bucket Brigade, 350 NOLA and other local groups and activists. They shut down the construction site for most of the day, and three people were eventually arrested for refusing to move out of the way. Here’s a live stream from part of that action.
But it’s not just going down in the Bayou. In solidarity with the L’eau Est la Vie Camp and all the water protectors in Louisiana, activists have been taking actions to target the major financiers of the BBP – banks like Wells Fargo, investors like Morgan Stanley and others. These actions are an extension and continuation of the #DefundDAPL and #DefundPipelines actions many of us took last year in solidarity with the Standing Rock protest encampment.
Here’s an action targeting Morgan Stanley in Rhode Island:
and one in Vermont targeting Goldman Sachs:
And there have been lots of others – in Connecticut, Virginia, California, Washington and all over the country. And it’s not too late to join or host an action this week. Grab a few friends this weekend, head down to a local branch of one of these banks, and make some noise! You can hand out flyers, encourage people to close their accounts, and tell the story of the #NoBBP resistance all over the country. If you register your event on this map, we’ll help support you by inviting activists who live nearby and sharing and amplifying your message on social media (check out those posts above, they’ve reached tens of thousands of people).
North Carolina residents are in a unique position to back us up: Duke CEO Lynn Good is likely to listen to what you say — IF you say it in public and online. Can you back us up by posting about the letter on Facebook, Twitter or by email?
It’s not just us climate activists who are alarmed about that new NASA study: Grammy Award winner Bonnie Raitt also called on Duke CEO Lynn Good to take action — so did Hollywood United, a campaign led by actors like Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo Dicaprio, Norman Lear and many more.
But you don’t have to be famous to know that Duke should take action. Communities across North Carolina are already suffering repeated floods, fires, droughts and other climate impacts. And we’ve been taking action with allies who are fighting the massive Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP),3 which would bring even more of this climate-wrecking fracked gas *(methane) from West Virginia through North Carolina, and eventually to South Carolina as well.
Our letter urges Duke’s CEO Good to do two things:
Stop venting unburned methane – which is up to 86 times more potent of a climate pollutant than Carbon Dioxide – into the air from all operations involving methane gas; And
Replace all fossil fuel electricity with renewables bolstered by energy storage, efficiency and energy-balancing programs.
This is especially important for Duke energy, since they’re one of the only utilities in the US where greenhouse emissions are rising due to methane venting and leaking from its massive expansion fracked gas.
Take action this weekend, and NCWarn will amplify your call in ads and paid outreach this month to and urge Duke CEO Lynn Good to help avert climate chaos instead of making it worse – with a first step being cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
When the Bureau of Ocean Energy management (BOEM) came to my town, there was already a great plan in place with rallies, lobby days,and speak outs planned by partners. But I wanted to make sure we did more than show up and record your comments (and mine) as opposed to the Trump administration’s plan.
First of all, all respect to the Sierra Club of South Carolina and their Ready for 100% rally and lobby day, which was already planned at the statehouse. This was lead by Minister Leo Woodbury, he’s from the northeast corner of South Carolina. That’s right across the state-line from Robeson county, which we talked a lot about in the live-stream about the ACP and the Rev., in addition to talking a lot about clean power, talked about the dangers of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure including offshore drilling and new pipelines. Here’s a bit of Rev. Woodbury to give you the flavor:
Later in the morning, the big ocean groups- OCEANA, Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, etc – organized a big rally on the statehouse steps that featured equal numbers of democratic and Republican law makers speaking out against drilling. It was a good event, and did a good job highlighting what SC ‘insiders’ view as our most plausible route to stopping drilling in this state: that the issue is so politically toxic, that it might even suppress turnout among Trump’s base voters in 2018. These groups hope that the threat of an electoral back-lash will lead Zinke and team to offer an exemption for SC like they did for FL – but I’m not so sure.
Here’s some video of that rally:
Our local big greens did a great job planning and executing a rally based on conventional political wisdom. It featured the voices of big politicians like Rep. Mark “Appalachian trail” Sanford and lots of State legislators. But those same reasons, the rally was not very radical — for example it did NOT connect offshore drilling to pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, Climate Change was barely mentioned once, nor was an explicit connection to environmental and racial justice made by most speakers (except the Gullah Geechee nation, of course). Still, that was the part of the day that got the most media attention.
After that it was off to the Doubletree — a hotel as far as you can get from downtown and still technically be in Columbia. Seriously, the location has no public transit it sits at the intersection of two interstate highways. Once there it was clear that BOEM was expecting some pushback given the amount of security on site. To counteract the un-democratic format of the hearing (more on that below) a lot of those same big green groups staged a counter-rally outside the BOEM hearing room, essentially in the ballroom next door. Where the focus of the earlier rally at the statehouse was clearly political – featuring elected officials and politically connected spokespeople – the pre-BOEM rally at the hotel was focussed on the grassroots. Local mayors, business owners, and impacted trade associations like fishermen were the featured speakers. And the clear focus was to get everyone fired up and ready to submit a comment in opposition to the Trump-Zinke plan. Here’s some video of that rally to give you a taste:
About that BOEM process.
The format of the hearings is always the same, they call it a ‘townhall’ but it’s not the format most of us associate with that description – EG one microphone and people get up one at a time to testify in favor or against on the record. What they have are a bunch of table displays, staffed by career BOEM people about the proposed offshore drilling plan. The displays and staff are not explicitly pro-drilling, but they are there to explain the Trump/Zinke proposal, which is very pro drilling. So the information includes things like “why oil drilling is safer than ever” and “Why is offshore oil important to America’s Economy”. There is no display specifically on climate change or pipelines (which will be needed to get oil from offshore rigs to shore, and then onshore to refineries).
If you want to submit a “public comment” at the hearing, you have to sit down, by yourself at a laptop (provided by BOEM) and type your name, address and other personal information into the approved terminal before being allowed to (in complete silence) type your comment into the system.
I wasn’t having it. So, after a few minutes of letting people sign in and mill around, I pulled out a chair, stood on it, and called BS on the whole process.
I’m using the “BS” frame here as an intentional homage to Emma Gonzalez and her speech in Florida on gun violence. There’s something really powerful about having someone call out a lie, and it’s a similar energy I’m hoping to channel into these remaining BOEM hearings – because they’re NOT OVER YET!
* We think the Obama rules should have gone farther, and protected the Gulf of Mexico as well. If it’s too dirty and dangerous for the South Atlantic, why is it safe for the Gulf? Answer it’s not, but the Gulf is treated as a sacrifice zone. But that’s another story.
Local organizers have been preparing for this moment for months creating the L’eau Est la Vie camp in the path of the proposed pipeline, writing letters, calling elected officials, attending hearings and suing the company to stop this atrocity.5 Now, those on the frontlines of the #NoBBP fight are calling for aid, and we need to respond.
From February 26 – March 4, You are invited to take action along with communities across the globe in solidarity with those fighting the Bayou Bridge on the frontlines. Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind Bayou Bridge and also behind DAPL, must be held accountable. Click here to learn more and sign up to host an action.
But the best thing to do right now is put up an event on that map – we’ll follow up with more information, sample fliers and more. And of course we’ll send multiple emails (along with all the other solidarity partners) to make sure that you get a crowd to back you up. But until someone, like you, steps up to host an event at a local bank branch or similar location, we can’t invite all your neighbors to show solidarity with this important week of action.
You know you’re jealous of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau: He insisted on a 50% female cabinet, listens to climate science, and does yoga on the regular. He’s like the opposite of Trump, and he’s right next door!
But as handsome and cool as he is, Trudeau has a serious flaw: he supports Tar Sands pipelines – even though they violate Indigenous rights and make it impossible for Canada to meet its climate commitments.
Canada and Trudeau say they’re different than Trump and America. We all want to believe Justin can change, but to do it, he needs to keep fossil fuels in the ground. And to do that he needs to stop these dirty Tar Sands Pipelines.
Trudeau is loved by progressives all over the world. But he needs to know that we’re not going to let him selfie his way out of his promises on climate and Indigenous rights.
I’m locked in the North Carolina Governor’s office with a dozen pipeline fighters, so I’ll keep this short:
This morning, in a surprise addition to a planed day of action challenging the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a muti-state coalition of activists stormed the lobby to the governor’s office and are refusing to leave until the governor or his staff will meet with them.
Activists were angered by Governor Roy Cooper’s decision last Friday against all evidence and reason to nonetheless green light ACP construction. Activists have been occupying the office since 8:30 am, and have vowed not to leave until the Governor revokes his approval. Police are allowing the demonstration to continue uninterrupted, resulting in a stalemate where activists are getting food delivered and bringing in sleeping bags, readying themselves to stay all day and into the night potentially.
3) Tell Raleigh NC people to come join us – especially students and anyone free in the middle of the day. The police are making no move to remove us, so we’re digging in to occupy until 5pm when the building closes.
Last April, a ton of us praised US Bank when they agreed to demands from Indigenous and climate activists (like us) to stop financing major oil and gas pipelines like DAPL. We warned at the time that US Bank was hedging its bets and hadn’t promised to Divest, yet.
Nor does rejecting one stupid, poorly-formed plan to subsidize fossil fuels undo all the damage FERC has already done. And FERC is clearly not looking to become a kinder, gentler, more open agency as they’re also looking to reduce the power of states like New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina who have been slowing down fossil fuel infrastructure (but not stopping it) by refusing to grant local air and water quality permits.
FERC’s pipeline review protocols were last updated in a 1999 Pipeline Policy Statement — well before the fracking boom. And while we don’t trust FERC to listen to the public or experts on climate, pollution, land rights, and other issues that should be central to this process, their review gives us an opportunity to define what a functioning Federal Energy Regulator could look like.
With that in mind, we’re putting our 7-point plan out there early, and also calling on FERC to hold no less than six public hearings held in affected communities across the nation, as well as engaging in a robust and truly public comment period (not their usual sham). Click here to sign on to the list of demands below.
Minimal reforms to the FERC process must include:
FERC must mandate a genuine demonstration of an end-use need for a project that is objectively verified by experts and that cannot be fulfilled by renewable energy options.
FERC must respect state and local authority and expertise by deferring to state and local environmental authorities’ findings regarding the environmental, community, and economic impacts of pipelines.
FERC must respect the authority of other state and federal agencies by instituting a policy that prevents FERC from approving pipeline infrastructure and/or allowing any element of construction to proceed until all state and federal reviews/permit processes have been finalized and approvals/permits granted.
FERC must end the use of tolling orders, which place people in legal limbo and prevent communities from accessing justice before a pipeline company exercises the power of eminent domain to take property rights and inflicts irreparable harm through significant stages of construction. If tolling orders are not prohibited, then other mechanisms for addressing the problem include:
Prohibit pipeline projects from advancing in any way, shape, or form, including eminent domain and/or construction, if there is an outstanding rehearing request/tolling order; or
Mandate FERC response to rehearing requests within 30 days and prohibit projects from advancing in any way, shape, or form during that period.
FERC must commit to removing bias from the process, by no longer hiring consultants with demonstrated conflicts of interest (i.e., those who are representing a pipeline company seeking Commission approval), and by prohibiting Commission staff or Commissioners from working on/deciding upon any pipeline infrastructure project in which they have a direct or indirect financial stake or have worked to represent the company within the previous 5 years.
FERC must end the practice of using segmentation to skew environmental and community impact reviews.
FERC must commit to a complete analysis of the costs and benefits, with a full and fair implementation of NEPA, including, but not limited to, fully evaluating social justice impacts; climate change impacts of pipeline construction and operation; community, environment, and climate change impacts of increased natural gas exploration, fracking, and methane emissions resulting from pipeline infrastructure operations; economic analyses that include costs, not just asserted benefits; alternatives not limited to alternate routes but that also include alternative energy sources; and robust health-and-safety impact analyses.