The frackers are coming, the frackers are coming!
You may have thought that the debate over fracking—or hydraulic fracturing, where water is pumped into faults in the earth to release oil and natural gas—is an issue for the flyover states, or at least upstate. But you’d be wrong! At least, that’s what a number of environmentalists in one of Manhattan’s toniest neighborhoods are claiming.
“An explosion? In the West Village?” starts a video produced by Occupy the Pipeline, which has already been seen by over half a million. (“A seriously scary thing is schedule to happen to New York City,” wrote Carolyn Silveira at Upworthy, who “had our professional fact-checkers comb through the whole thing” and found it to be “factual and true.”)
They claim that an explosion like the one that occurred in San Bruno, California, in 2010 could happen in the Village if we don’t stop Spectra’s natural gas pipeline, which will feed into Con Edison’s network, from starting operation in November. (While the group mentions that the Spectra pipeline will be “of similar size and pressure” as the ill-fated San Bruno one, that pipeline was over half a century old, and in fact similar lines already crisscross the region.)
As for the link to fracking, the pipeline won’t be an exclusive conduit for fracked natural gas from the Macellus Formation, which anti-pipeline activists say is jam-packed with dangerously high doses of radon.
“The gas in the pipeline can come from five sources,” a Spectra Energy spokesman told the International Business Times, citing “the Gulf of Mexico, Pennsylvania, the Marceullus Formation, the Rocky Mountains and offshore Nova Scotia” as sources for the pipeline’s natural gas.
The irony of the activists’ concerns is that the pipeline is part of a broader effort by New York City to rid itself of guaranteed pollutants and soot: No. 4 and No. 6 fuels, heavily polluting heating oils which many old buildings in the city still use. Instead, buildings must upgrade their heating systems to use cleaner burning oil, or switch to natural gas or biodiesel.
ConEd and National Grid, wrote Scientific American last year, “have agreed to upgrade their natural gas infrastructure to make it easier and cheaper for buildings to make the switch”—which is where the new pipeline comes in.
While some of the more hysterical corners of the internet continue to fret over the pipeline—won’t somebody think of the poor West Villagers?!—and insist that only non-fossil fuels be brought into the city, politicians have largely brushed the concerns aside, with Christine Quinn refusing to hold hearings last year (“Our response,” wrote Occupy the Pipeline: “F*** that”).
Then again, if West Villagers are looking for a politician who’s more in tune with their anti-pipeline concerns, they might consider hopping the Hudson and settling in Jersey City, whose soon-to-be-former mayor has petitioned the courts to review the pipeline. We also hear that there are no ambulance-blocking (or not) CitiBike docks in Jersey City.