FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—November 29, 2015
Media Contact: Sandra Steingraber | 607.351.0719; Lindsay Speer | 315.383.7210
350 March through Watkins Glen on Eve of Paris Climate Summit
Marchers call for climate action and halt to Crestwood gas transport, storage plans; NYS Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Schuyler County Legislator Michael Lausell, Cornell climate scientist Robert Howarth address crowd
Watkins Glen, NY – The day before the commencement of United Nations climate change negotiations in Paris, 350 upstate residents marched through downtown Watkins Glen on Sunday afternoon, calling globally for worldwide action on climate change and locally for an end to gas transport and storage at Seneca Lake, in the Finger Lakes region of NY. Organized by the grassroots group We Are Seneca Lake, marchers wore blaze orange safety vests to symbolize the emergency that climate change represents. It also was a direct response showing that they will not be intimidated by an ominous comment on Facebook last week.
The Finger Lakes March for Global Climate Action was one of more than 2,000 marches that took place this weekend in 175 countries as delegates gather in Paris for the World Climate Summit. At 1 p.m., the event kicked off at the Seneca Lake marina with a rally, music and speeches from political leaders and sustainable energy innovators.
New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D) of the 125th Assembly District opened the rally, saying, “Tomorrow, world leaders gather in Paris to begin negotiating a binding climate treaty. The future of your children and mine depend on a strong treaty. The more citizens we have marching on the streets today with love and resolve, the stronger the message we send to Paris tomorrow—and the more hope we create for our children and grandchildren in all the days after that. That’s why I’m here. This is an historic day. The people are mobilizing and speaking all over the country and the world. The tide is turning. The work must continue in the months and years ahead, but today I am feeling great hope that we will build a sustainable future for ourselves and for all the world.”
Schuyler County legislator Michael Lausell addressed the health and safety risks of Crestwood Midstream’s proposed gas storage facility in the nearby town of Reading. Crestwood proposes to store Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and natural gas (methane) in abandoned salt caverns on the west shore of Seneca Lake. Referring to Crestwood’s plans to transport LPG by rail through Watkins Glen State Park and over its famous gorge, Lausell said, “Our Watkins Glen State Park is a natural wonder and a very popular destination. Visitors from near and far enjoy its unique charm. It would be a mistake to subject our beautiful gorge to the risk of daily transport of explosive fossil fuels over the tall rail trestle that crosses through the park.”
Tompkins County legislator Martha Robertson said, “With our national politics hijacked by huge corporate interests, mega-donor money, and Fox News, local elected officials and political leaders can and must lead the way on climate change. We saw that succeed in the fracking fight, with the communities of Dryden and Middlefield making history and making law. Never doubt that your local vote makes a difference.”
Suzanne Hunt of Branchport in Yates County, and president of Hunt Green LLC, which provides sustainable energy solutions to wineries, government agencies, and businesses, emphasized that the technical feasibility of renewable energy solutions. “We need to come together as communities—big and small—to understand everyone’s needs in creating a solution,” said Hunt. Addressing global climate change is *the* challenge of our lifetime, but it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs, enhance security, and improve the health and quality of life for us all.”
Joe Sliker, president and C.E.O. of Renovus Solar in Tompkins County, spoke to the economic promise of solar energy. “Solar power has the potential to provide tens of thousands of times more energy than humanity could ever consume, while providing good paying jobs and dramatic economic benefits to upstate New York. We have reached an historic tipping point, and the time is now to come together with the shared purpose to revolutionize our power infrastructure, put good people to work, and permanently address the imminent threats climate change brings to our lives.”
Carrying signs and banners reading, “Seneca Lake to Paris, Climate Action Now!,” “Leave it in the Ground!” and “Climate Justice Builds Peace and Hope,” marchers walked south along Route 14 through downtown Watkins Glen to the main entrance of the Watkins Glen State Park.
Marchers reassembled at the gorge trailhead where Bob Howarth, PhD, climate scientist and ecologist at Cornell University spoke about the climate threat posed by natural gas and the products of fracking:
“The leaders of the world are meeting in Paris for the next two weeks, working on a plan to slow the rate of global warming. While it seems certain steps finally will be taken after decades of debate, these steps are too little. As more and more natural gas comes from fracking of shale, methane emissions have risen dramatically. In fact, satellite observations show a global rise in methane since 2010, quite likely driven by shale gas and oil development in the United States. Natural gas is no bridge fuel, and shale gas is a disaster for the climate. The path forward must be to embrace the technologies of the 21st Century and move rapidly to a fossil-fuel-free society powered by wind and solar energy. This transition has begun, and it leads to healthier people and a healthier economy, as well as addressing global change. We must accelerate the transition. The time is now.”
Sandra Steingraber, PhD, biologist and co-founder of We Are Seneca Lake, said, “Today we declare, together with people all over the world, that we are turning our back on coal, oil, and gas. From this moment forward, we will be looking up rather than down for our energy. Our future will be powered by wind, water, and sun.”
Both Howarth and Steingraber will attend the climate talks in Paris later this week.
After marching back to the marina, marchers heard about the dangers of fracking infrastructure from Dennis Higgens of People Not Pipelines in Otsego County, who said, “One pipeline leads to another. Our struggles to halt natural gas infrastructure projects are connected, just like the pipelines themselves, and we need to stand in solidarity with one another.”
The rally closed with music by local singer-songwriter Edith McCrae and a children’s chorus performing “That’s What the Children Say (the Ballad of Seneca Lake)”, which has become an unofficial anthem for the We Are Seneca Lake movement. Marchers then joined hands at the water’s edge to show their resolve for protecting the lake against dangerous fossil fuel projects and to show solidarity with climate activists in Paris who, earlier on Sunday, joined hands across the city to form a 1.2 mile human chain after the police prohibited the planned climate march due to security concerns.
Background on the Global Climate March
The Finger Lakes March for Climate Justice was part of a day of marches, concerts, rallies and workshops spanning all continents that take place the day before the start of global climate negotiations in Paris. Loosely organized by 350.org and the online activist network Avaaz, the 2,460 different Global Climate March events are united by twin demands: “Keep fossil fuels in the ground and finance a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050” and intend to push leaders at every level of government to commit to a rapid transition to renewable energy.
Background on We Are Seneca Lake
We Are Seneca Lake is a grassroots, citizens’ movement that opposes Crestwood’s plans for methane and LPG storage in Seneca Lake salt caverns. Civil disobedience has been ongoing since October 2014 when Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of Seneca Lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. The total number of arrests in the year-old campaign now stands at 400.
Crestwood has indicated that it intends to make Seneca Lake the gas storage and transportation hub for the Northeast, as part of the gas industry’s planned expansion of infrastructure across the region. As part of the plan, LPG-filled railcars will travel a railway that traverses Watkins Glen State Park, passing within 60 feet of campsites and over the heads of hikers in the gorge via a 1937 rail trestle. The struggle for the energy future of Seneca Lake was the subject of a recent New Yorker video report, a New York Times profile, and a Gannett investigative report.
More background about the project, including the broad opposition from 31 municipalities and more than 300 wineries and local businesses, is available on the We Are Seneca Lake website at www.WeAreSenecaLake.com
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