No Gas Pipeline Continues its Fight Against Spectra Energy with BBQ Musicfest FundraiserBy Summer Dawn Hortillosa • Jun 22nd, 2012 • Category: Arts, Featured, News
The “fun raiser” benefits No Gas Pipeline (NGP), the local organization against the Spectra Energy natural gas pipeline proposed to run through most of Jersey City, Bayonne and parts of Hoboken. The Houston-based company’s controversial project is one of a few causes that have united Jersey City residents and city officials – even the often divided City Council – who call the pipeline a “disaster” waiting to happen. More than 500 groups and individuals have filed as intervenors to legally fight the pipeline.
The pipeline would rush 800,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day under Jersey City in order to bring energy to New York City, despite environmental groups arguing the energy is not needed. Due to the size and pressure of the pipeline, many say it would be dangerous to have it run under a densely populated urban area. Despite Spectra Energy’s assurance that it would be one of the safest pipelines in America, many say a possible explosion could kill more people and cause more destruction in Hudson County than in a deserted area elsewhere in the country. On June 14, Mayor Jerramiah Healy emphasized the pipeline’s environmental risks at an anti-fracking rally in Trenton and vowed to continue fighting the pipeline.
In response to the pipeline’s approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in May, both the city and No Gas Pipeline filed separate motions for a rehearing on the matter on Wednesday. Regardless of the outcome, NGP Founder Dale Hardman says the group’s objective has been the same since it was founded in February 2010.
“I did research to see how the process operates and under FERC’s process, the only way to overturn (their decision) is to sue them in federal court,” Hardman says. “From day one, our goal was to file as intervenors and get as many members as possible, so that on the day FERC made its ruling, we would then have the opportunity to go to federal court to overturn that ruling.”
NGP is being represented pro-bono by BJ Schulte, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law Center who also represents the New Jersey chapters of Food and Water Watch and the Sierra Cub. Schulte says that if a rehearing is granted, they will try to have FERC reexamine certain factors they feel were not given sufficient consideration. One, he says, is radon, a decayed product of uranium that can increase people’s risk of lung cancer or death.
“There’s been studies showing that natural gas produced from Marcellus Shale has an abnormally high content of radon and because of the proximity of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New York, the measure of distance doesn’t allow enough time for radon to decay and become harmless. It could pose a health threat if people use the natural gas that comes through pipeline to cook or heat space heaters,” says Schulte.
“It could impact New Jersey too because part of their justification for the pipeline all along has been to have a valve on the Jersey City portion of the pipeline to interconnect with PSE&G’s local distribution system,” he adds.
Other issues to be discussed include Stuxnet, a computer virus that domestic or international terrorists could use to infect infrastructure like the pipeline. “Because this is a large, high-pressure natural gas pipeline, the risk of potential damage that would occur should any sort of attack happen would be astronomically higher,” says Schulte, adding that pipelines have previously been targeted in countries like Iran.
“There’s probably no reason to think that this particular pipeline would be more or less likely than any other to explode, but this is pretty unprecedented for such a large, high-pressure pipeline to be in such a densely populated urban area. The damage it would inflict would be much higher here than if an accident were to happen elsewhere,” says Schulte.
FERC has 30 days to respond to the city and NGP’s motions, but may take longer to arrange for or deny a request for a rehearing, Schulte says. If the requests are denied, those against the pipeline will have 60 days to bring the issue to federal court, which Hardman is fully prepared to do. He has no illusions about what’s to come.
“Irrespective of whether a judge considers a rehearing and they look at some environmental impact statement or dismisses the rehearing – which unfortunately is likely to be the case because that’s just how FERC is operating – we will still pursue them in federal district court…It’s literally the court of last resort,” he says.
Several local organizations and bands opposed to the pipeline are helping out with the event. The Barrow Mansion’s basement will host bowling, and Legal Beans will serve smoked barbecue. Other food providers include Made With Love, Fizzy Lizzy and the New Jersey Beer Co.
Seven bands will play the event, including one of Hardman’s favorites, The Milwaukees, and the Winner Takes All Collective, a group that member and multi-instrumentalist June Star Blackman, 30, says came together to raise awareness about issues like the pipeline.
“We want to bring focus to all things in community that we want to be better, we’re trying to be voice of the people,” says Blackman, who has lived in Downtown Jersey City for two years. Some of the collective’s other pet causes include getting more trash cans on the street and getting the Jersey City Museum, which is having a soft reopening on June 30 with a new exhibit called “Masters of the Collection,” to thrive and support the city’s growing arts community.
They even wrote a song about the pipeline, he says.
“To be totally frank, (the pipeline) is the reason this whole collective came together… we can’t wait to deliver our pipeline song to the people at the Barrow Mansion,” he says. “I get excited talking about it because it’s wrong… and I don’t support that.”
“We’re a collective of awareness,” he adds. “Everybody, it’s about stopping the pipeline.”
Hardman says proceeds from the music festival will go toward any legal fees NGP incurs and community outreach to gain more members.
“People say, ‘What can we do?’ – they must become a member of No Gas Pipeline, whether in-person at an event like this BBQ Musicfest or do it online, and we provide them with the availability to do it at any dollar level they choose,” says Hardman.
“You can’t be against the pipeline and not be a member. When we go before a judge, he won’t say, ‘How many people liked this on Facebook?’ He’ll ask, ‘How many actual paid members do you have?’”
Check out the lineup:
Matt Hunger contributed to this report
Photo of the Milwaukees courtesy of the band
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Summer Dawn Hortillosa is a Staff Writer for the Jersey City Independent. She is also a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey Journal, the International and other publications; creative writer and theatrical director.
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