Lee Ziesche is a filmmaker and organizer working with Seeding Sovereignty to tell the stories of communities fighting to stop the expansion of fossil fuels. In this op-ed, she explains how she uses her activism to campaign for renewable energy.
In May 2015, I was arrested for the first time protesting a fracked gas storage facility on the shores of Seneca Lake in Upstate New York. Three years later, dirty fracking infrastructure still threatens New York State. But when Governor Andrew Cuomo steps up to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, I doubt you’ll hear about the expansion of fracked gas infrastructure — a fossil fuel that threatens everyone’s environmental well-being, while often masquerading as “green” energy. That’s why on April 23, I’m risking arrest as part of the largest climate rally in Albany, New York’s history, and demanding real climate leadership from the Capitol.
Climate science tells us that in order to avoid locking our planet into catastrophic climate change, we have to leave 80 percent of known fossil fuels in the ground — and that includes fracked gas. But even progressive states like New York, where I live and where fracking has been banned since 2014, continue to build fracking infrastructure like fracked gas power plants and pipelines. The fossil fuel industry claims fracked gas is “clean,” but these infrastructure projects could be game over for our climate and our communities.
Fracking is a process that injects millions of gallons of water at high pressure underground to extract natural gas trapped in shale rock. It’s been found to contaminate drinking water, cause air pollution in local communities, and contribute greatly to climate change. Methane, the main component of fracked gas, is 86 to 100 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2 for the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere. If just 3 percent of methane leaks during the fracking process, fracked gas is just as bad, if not worse than coal for the climate. And scientists are finding scary leakage rates throughout the entire process from extraction to delivery, debunking the fossil fuel industry myth that we need fracked gas as a ‘bridge fuel’ to get us to 100 percent renewable energy.
Despite overwhelming climate science, Governor Cuomo’s administration continues to issue permits for fracked gas infrastructure, like the massive 650 megawatt CPV power plant in Waywayanda, New York. People who live near the plant have done everything engaged citizens should. They’ve signed petitions. They’ve held rallies in New York City and Albany. But despite the community’s opposition, the CPV plant is set to be up and running by this summer.
As a filmmaker and organizer, I’ve heard the stories of children who say they started getting nosebleeds when a fracked gas compressor station was built in their community. I’ve met mothers who live in fear every day because a highly pressurized fracked gas pipeline has been put in near their children’s schools. Just two weeks ago, I talked to a grandmother who went to jail trying to stop a fracked gas power plant — that’s how scared she is for her community.
On April 23, New Yorkers from across the state will come together for the largest climate rally ever directed at Governor Cuomo in Albany. We will call on the governor to halt all fracking infrastructure, move New York to 100 percent renewable energy, and make corporate polluters pay into a transition fund.
Some of us will risk arrest that day, because we’re tired of shouting at government buildings while fracked gas pipelines and power plants continue to do harm. We’re tired of Governor Cuomo citing his administration’s commitment to developing solar and wind, while at the same time there are proposals to power the buildings his administration work from with fracked gas.
Saying you believe in climate science is not enough: we demand leaders who are serious about ending our government’s toxic relationship with the fossil fuel industry, and are committed to building something better.
As a white woman, I have the privilege to risk arrest, a choice that people of color, the ones who have borne the brunt of the fossil fuel extractive economy, do not often have. But I don’t feel like I have any other choice but to act. People I love and care about are getting fracked. My future is getting fracked. The time for talk is over. April 23, we’ll walk the walk.
Editor's Note: This op-ed does not reflect the views of BDG Media and is part of a larger, feminist discourse on today's political climate.