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The author marching with other activists against Spectra Energy. (Photo: Alliance for Climate Education)
The People over Pipelines march packed the streets with local activists in July who came together in protest and embarked on a five day trek across 55 miles, covering only a fraction of the proposed path for the high-pressure fracked natural gas pipeline we seek to stop. Despite such a powerful and outspoken movement, policymakers have neglected to restrain Spectra Energy from constructing the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline. Such disregard for the resolution of the people, and a tendency to overlook what is truly best for our wellbeing, is not only a clear sign of rapacious ignorance, it’s simply undemocratic.
Many people, including high schoolers like me, have raised countless concerns about this pipeline, ranging from local safety threats to the consequences of climate change. From neighborhood-disrupting construction and family displacement from the abuses of eminent domain, to water pollution from hydraulic fracturing, to transporting the explosive gas through leak-prone pipelines, to climate disruption—essentially every aspect of this pipeline is hazardous. Not to mention, scientists say we can’t afford to build even one more pipeline if we’re serious about avoiding catastrophic climate change.
The statistics are more than alarming. The U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), reports that 155 gas pipeline explosions occur annually, injuring dozens, and causing millions of dollars worth of damage. If even that isn’t enough to deter people from supporting this pipeline, the AIM pipeline runs within just 105 feet of the Indian Nuclear Power Plant facility that stands atop two fault lines. This is a recipe for disaster, as a failure at this location could trigger a chain reaction of devastating proportion, endangering 20 million New Yorkers, including much of NYC, with a nuclear catastrophe.
Consequently, the only possible benefit of this pipeline could be the power it provides, right? Wrong again. Evidently, the people don’t even need it. Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, conducted a recent study on the state’s electric power sustainability, coming to a clear conclusion that no new gas pipelines are needed to supply sufficient power, and cheaper, cleaner alternatives exist in the event that an energy crisis occurs. Ultimately, the only group that benefits is Spectra Energy, as it reaps money from people who consume energy that they don’t need. And, stationed in Texas, is well out of harm’s way.
In addition to lacking a need for this pipeline, the people of New England have outright objected to it in public statements or displays of protest, which make it all the more shocking that Spectra is still being allowed to go through with their plan. But, I still have hope. Earlier this summer, I marched with thousands to send a direct message to politicians and to prevent the propagation of toxic infrastructure. It was truly a sight to see as such a large group of people took to the streets, carrying signs, chanting slogans, and giving speeches.
I came across an interesting range of people, each with diverse and unique perspectives on this issue. A man working in construction expressed his disdain for the pollution caused by such work and encouraged avoiding natural gas for better health. Experienced protesters explained how this issue tied in with other movements they’ve supported, such as fossil fuel divestment and the Paris Climate Agreement ratification. Parents attended as they feared for the future of their children and did not want them to grow up with a pipeline in their backyard.
Most interestingly, however, was the voice of the young people. My generation supplies a very interesting perspective on environmental and political issues as the decisions we make today will affect us for the longest time, yet we're too young to be part of the legislative bodies making decisions about our future. It’s important to not overlook our often-marginalized voice and give some priority to it.
Furthermore, with a new generation comes a new set of viewpoints, and at this march, I heard several new points about climate change that, in my experience, were previously given less attention. Many youth speakers discussed the intersection of environmental justice and social justice, as those disadvantaged due to their race or income level are often disproportionately harmed by pollution and climate change. This pipeline would only exacerbate such inequality. The dedication of these activists is truly astounding, keeping in mind that many of these people spent the vast majority of their week under scorching summer temperatures, covering a 55-mile journey to Boston.
As big as this march was, it only showed a mere fraction of the public discontent for this pipeline. Similar protests have occurred outside of Massachusetts as the entirety of New England is affected, and this resistance has been going on for years. New York politicians have raised concerns over the pipeline’s proximity to the nuclear power plant and asked for a more thorough examination of the pipeline’s safety. The people who conducted this examination, however, are suspiciously linked to the company building it, and an unbiased report has yet to be published.
Though, in Massachusetts, the Supreme Court has already taken action to drawback this project by restricting the company from taxing local citizens to pay for a pipeline they don’t need, but, while helpful, this will not be enough. Congressman Stephen Lynch very clearly outlines his dissent, stating that in West Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston that would be significantly impacted by the pipeline, representative officials have formed a unified front as they believe, “that the current alignment of the pipeline is a threat to public safety.”
We can't stop fighting. Those already against the AIM pipeline must become more vocal and galvanize opposition within their own spheres in order to gain momentum against this imminent danger. Regarding those in support of the pipeline, I ask that they open their eyes to the facts that this 15-year-old already knows depicting the risks and inevitable harms of more natural gas infrastructure, and that they open their ears to the voice of the people. For the people will not be content until they can be absolutely certain that Spectra will not finish constructing this pipeline, and it’s simply undemocratic to ignore such overt dissent from one's constituents. With the addition of more natural gas infrastructure diverting capital from clean and efficient energy innovation, our country only becomes more entrenched in a system of fossil fuels which threatens to harm us deeply. And it's clear, we just can do that. Pursuing an environmentally just world is no easy task, but preventing the construction of Spectra’s AIM pipeline is an important step in the right direction.
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Daniel Abdulah lives in Newton, Massachusetts, is 15 years old, and is a junior at Newton South High School. He sees the struggle for a healthier environment as one of the biggest challenges his generation faces. Daniel was motivated to join Alliance for Climate Education to learn more about the intricacies of climate change as it relates to society, and to take action to solve the problem. He believes in the potential for social movements and emerging technologies to fix the present state of ecological disarray and believes that true environmentalism requires action.