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Environmental activists in Washington, D.C.. (Photo: Chesapeake Climate/flickr/cc)

Environmental activists in Washington, D.C.. (Photo: Chesapeake Climate/flickr/cc)

Blockades Challenge Fracking's Assault on 'All That Sustains Life'

Arrests climb as climate-focused week of action continues

Nadia Prupis

Activists on Monday attempted to shut down fracking sites and a federal building in New York, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. as part of a series of environmental actions that kicked off around the country last week.

The protests, part of the eight-month, 3,000-mile Great March for Climate Action, saw at least 25 people arrested Monday morning as activists blockaded all entrances to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) building and shut down business for more than two hours.

FERC’s move to "rubber-stamp" fracking projects throughout the East Coast is "incompatible with all that sustains life on Earth, including our climate system and clean water, air, and land," Environmental Action said in a press release before the protest.

Commissioners last week approved a methane gas storage facility to be built on the shores of Seneca Lake in New York, along with several other infrastructure projects in New York and Maryland, which opponents say threaten those communities and the families that live there.

Part of the blockade into the FERC building was a model town, constructed by protesters using portraits of the families from the communities where those projects are set up.

"The object of the blockade art is to give FERC no other option but to destroy the town and families in order to get to work," said Kim Fraczek of Sane Energy Project of New York. "The destruction of the art serves a metaphor of reality."

Monday also marked the first day of Beyond Extreme Energy, a series of "confrontational activities" organized by coalition of frontline communities and environmental organization, set to take place in Washington, D.C. throughout the week. Protesters will continue blockading FERC entrances throughout the week and hold demonstrations at other federal buildings.

In late September, FERC approved energy company Crestwood Midstream's request to expand underground methane storage in salt caverns next to Seneca Lake, one of 11 Finger Lakes. The commission also approved construction of fracking pipelines, compressor stations, export facilities, and underwater gas storage areas in Seneca Lake and other regions, including New York’s Myersville and Minisink, and Cove Point in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

Activists say FERC has not properly assessed the harmful effects that these gas and fracking projects have on environmental and public health, and that the burden of proof falls too often on blighted communities, rather than those who propose the project. They demanded that the commission withdraw its permits for fracked-gas export facilities and gas expansion plans and make the "rights of human beings and all life on Earth" its top priority.

As activists held the blockade in front of FERC, other simultaneous protests took place at a construction site in Solomons Island, Maryland that is crucial to the Cove Point project.

Kelly Canavan, president of the AMP Creeks Council, chained herself to a piece of equipment at the site in protest of federal approval for energy company Dominion to expand a natural gas export terminal in Cove Point.

"Now that FERC is poised to preempt any further victories we might be awarded in Calvert County, and Maryland officials at every level continue to support Dominion instead of residents, we are forced to take this stand," Canavan told the Bay Net. "This is a peaceful protest to call attention to the carelessness and injustice that have characterized the course of this project from the beginning."

Seven people were arrested at the Cove Point protests. Organizers say an additional 15 were arrested at an action in Seneca Lake where protesters stood in front of Crestwood's gates.

Protesters are using the hashtag #FERC to update their action on Twitter.

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