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The Farce of Democratic Party Climate Change Policy

By Andrew Stewart - CounterPunch, January 1, 2016

As the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak continues to spew into the air, Rhode Island’s small hamlet of Burrillvillle is now facing the chance to be the future site of such a catastrophe. With the help of a key Democratic Party endorsement and accession from labor union bosses who should know better, Rhode Island may soon host a fracked natural gas plant rather than the saner move of a sustainable electric plant.

Recently, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who is lovingly nicknamed ‘Wheldon Shitehouse’ by constituents in the know, has posed and postured around the Senate regarding climate change, browbeating and hectoring the Republican denialists with all the pomp and circumstance of the pontificating charlatan he is. One of Sen. Whitehouse’s claims to fame is going after the paint corporations in a lawsuit regarding lead poisoning in children, yet his recent behavior makes one wonder if he in fact consumed a fair share of paint chips in his youth.

What makes this such a joke is his adamant support of the construction of a Spectra Energy natural gas plant in Burriville. My colleague Steve Ahlquist at, a better journalist and investigative reporter than I will ever be, has done a truly amazing amount of muckraking on this issue that shows the calamity in construction, reporting I would highly encourage CounterPunch readers to peruse at their leisure, including ones about whistleblowing regarding corporate pollution and protests by residents willing to go to jail. What I offer here is a mere summary.

Former inspectors allege safety issues with Spectra pipeline project

By Steve Ahlquist - RI Future, November 30, 2015

Two safety inspectors who worked on Spectra Energy’s proposed methane gas pipeline that will cut through Burrillville, RI, say the company cut corners when it came to project, worker and environmental safety.

“Right now, what they’re hoping to do, is they’re hoping to slam all this through, and then at the end ask for forgiveness,” said one of the former inspectors. “Oops, sorry about that, I didn’t know, let me write you a check. Because once this thing’s turning meter, they’re going to be making millions of dollars a day. It doesn’t matter what your problems are…”

The other added, “We were told to shut the fuck up or quit.”

Both men, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, were subcontracted by Spectra and both were terminated from the project this summer. I was introduced to them through FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas), an environmental group that opposes the project, and have spent time talking with both men by phone as well as reviewing audio interviews and emails provided by FANG.

“Like every other company, Spectra gives a tremendous presentation about their commitment to safety, but their actions lack any kind of resolve. No one ever says, ‘Safety’s #2 here,’” said the first inspector. “At every turn when I made a safety suggestion, I was met with monumental resistance from the company on every level.”

Perhaps suspecting their days are numbered, fossil fuel companies are rushing to build the infrastructure required to keep us dependent on methane or “natural” gas for the next 50 years or more, even as evidence mounts that methane is a major contributor to climate change. This gives lie to the claim that methane will serve as a bridge fuel, something to ease the transition from fossil fuels to green energy sources, as the infrastructure investments being made are long term and permanent. Companies are investing billions laying pipelines, building compressor stations, and constructing energy plants and other infrastructure ahead of industry-wide extinction.

In their rush to build, safety and environmental concerns are being brushed aside, suspect many experts. A recent “Pipeline Safety Trust analysis of federal data,” shows that, “new pipelines are failing at a rate on par with gas transmission lines installed before the 1940s.”  Sarah Smith writes that Carl Weimer, director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, told attendees at a National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives annual meeting in Tempe, AZ that, “The new pipelines are failing even worse than the oldest pipelines.”

Pipeline Incidents

Though some of the problems may be related to workers learning how to implement the latest technologies, Weimar says, “there’s also some suggestions that we’re trying to put so many new miles of pipeline in the ground so fast that people aren’t doing construction … the way they ought to.”

In the same piece Smith quotes Robert Hall, of the National Transportation Safety Board Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations, who agreed that, “the rapid construction of pipelines in the U.S. is likely a contributing factor to ‘people … out there possibly taking shortcuts or not being as diligent’ as they would be if the pace of construction were less fervent.”

Coming forward to confirm these observations are two former Spectra contractors I’m calling Inspector One and Inspector Two. Both wish to remain anonymous for this piece for personal and professional reasons, though they know that their former bosses may be able to identify them.

Spectra Construction Disrupted by Anti-Fracking Lockdown in Chaplin

By Renee Hamel - Capitalism vs the Climate, November 16, 2015

Web editor's note: The following article details the exploits of one or more IWW members.

Chaplin, CT: Early in the morning, Bernardo McLaughlin of Capitalism vs. the Climate (CvC) obstructed the start of the work for Spectra Energy, locking himself to equipment at a compressor station that Spectra is expanding as part of a massive expansion of fracked gas pipeline infrastructure.

“I placed my body here because we’re out of options. The political class has decided they can survive climate catastrophe and written the rest of us off as acceptable losses. Nobody is coming to save us. Our only hope is organized grassroots power and direct action,” said McLaughlin. Protesters explained that the nonviolent blockade took place as part of Flood the System, a national mobilization for climate justice called by Rising Tide North America.

Spectra’s billion-dollar “AIM Project” creates an incentive for increased fracking, a dangerous method of extracting methane gas from shale fields. Spectra plans to build part of the pipeline, which carries highly-flammable gas, just one hundred feet from New York state’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, running the risk of catastrophic injury to tens of thousands of people. The engineer Paul Blanch has said that a disaster at this part of the pipeline could cause the release of more radioactive materials than were released in Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Federal Regulatory Commission has said that the Chaplin area construction would directly impact Mansfield Hallow State Park, twelve streams, two wetlands and habitat for state-protected species.

So far, activists have been arrested 66 times in the campaign against Spectra’s pipeline expansion. The actions have had an impact. Last week, dozens willing to risk arrest in West Roxbury, Massachusetts arrived at a vacant construction site. Spectra had abruptly decided to pause construction in West Roxbury until the spring. Meanwhile, Spectra has been seeking $30,000 in damages from three protesters who nonviolently blocked construction in Burrillville, Rhode Island in September. Activists see Spectra’s extreme response as a scare tactic to deter future demonstrations and as an acknowledgement that the ongoing blockades and lockdowns are effectively disrupting the company’s construction plans.

Earlier this month, the climate justice movement won a partial though major victory by stopping the northern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Protesters in Chaplin said that although they welcomed President Obama’s rejection of the northern part of the Keystone XL pipeline, the fight against dirty energy infrastructure has barely begun. During this morning’s blockade against Spectra, CvC members and supporters stood outside the site holding a banner with a “To-Do” list:

  • 1) Stop Keystone XL ✔
  • 2) Stop Spectra
  • 3) End Capitalism

“After several years of blockades, arrests, and protests against the Keystone XL, Obama finally announced that he would not allow construction of the pipeline’s northern segment. While this was a victory for the climate justice movement, the fight is very far from over,” said Gabby Rodriguez of Capitalism vs. the Climate.

Capitalism vs. the Climate is a horizontally-organized, Connecticut-based group that takes direct action against the root causes of the climate crisis. Capitalism vs. the Climate invites people to join their Anti-Capitalist Contingent at the climate movement’s upcoming November 21 March for 100% Renewable Energy at 12 pm at the State Capitol.

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