"Love the Common Good" and "Care for This World"—these are the words of Pope Francis that were held aloft by protesters as they were arrested early Tuesday for blockading the entrances to a gas storage facility in upstate New York.
Forcing large trucks to idle beside the Crestwood Midstream gas storage facility gates, the demonstrators read aloud passages from the recent Papal Encyclical on climate change before they were taken into custody by Schuyler County deputies and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.
According to reports, thirteen protesters were detained and released, marking 44 people arrested since a series of encyclical-themed protests began on June 30. Organized by the grassroots group We Are Seneca Lake, the actions draw on the Pope's words to fuel the case against Crestwood's plan to store methane and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in the Seneca Lake salt caverns.
There have been 332 total arrests since the group launched their civil disobedience campaign after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project last October.
Opponents say the plan to store pressurized gas within the natural caverns is both environmentally irresponsible and dangerous to the community and economy, as it threatens the purity of Seneca Lake, which provides drinking water for over 100,000 people.
In the papal document, published June 18, the leader of the Catholic Church argues that there is a moral imperative for taking care of the planet and tackling the climate crisis.
"We are all of us stewards of the earth," said 45-year-old Faith Muirhead, who was taken into custody. "I feel a responsibility to do what I can to protect these waters and this land. So I pray, I walk, I send letters, I call my state representatives and today, I stand at the gates of Crestwood to demonstrate my resolve. I am a teacher and a teacher of teachers. Today, I teach by putting my freedom in jeopardy in order to bring attention to the potential risks inherent in Crestwood’s plans."
And citing the White House's climate plan, announced on Monday, demonstrator Dan Taylor added: "Today, we are standing at the gates of dirty energy to say that Crestwood’s plan for the Finger Lakes is not a clean power plan. I am here to help impede the build-out of fossil fuel infrastructure."
During the read aloud, Rev. John Elder, a demonstrator and part-time resident of Schuyler County who was not among those arrested, reiterated the Pope's words: "The entire material universe speaks of God's love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains, everything is as it were a caress of God."