Peter Nightingale, the University of Rhode Island physics professor arrested during a civil disobedience sit-in at Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Providence office last December, left court today after settling all charges by agreeing to pay a $300 fine.
Shortly after the court decision, at a press conference held outside the Garrahy Court Complex, Nightingale reiterated the science behind his position, saying that when he thinks about the future, “and my grandchildren in particular, I do not know how to explain the destruction we are visiting upon the Earth they shall inherit.”
Though Senator Whitehouse “is the one of the nation’s most well-known climate activists and the senate’s most committed member to addressing climate change,” many environmentalists feel that the Senator’s continued support of plans to expand the Spectra natural gas pipeline calls this reputation into question.
Citing studies from scientific journals, Nightingale notes that “shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger GHG (greenhouse gas footprint) than coal or oil.” The United States policy of fracked gas as a bridge fuel, say Nightingale, “flies in the face of this science.”
Nightingale further maintains that “the US is not acting according to this science and is in violation of Article 3 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which states that “The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” and that therefore all three branches of our government are delinquent in their fiduciary duty to safeguard the natural resources they hold in trust for present and future generations.
Also speaking at the press conference was Sherrie Andre, who noted that Spectra is trying to break its “massive pipeline project into smaller pieces,” so that it won’t seem to be much of an environmental concern. “But in reality this is a $5 billion project being built to export gas out of Canada and to hook New England on fossil fuels.” It has nothing to do with energy independence for Rhode Island.
Andre says that “environmental impacts must be considered cumulatively and federal law is clear on this.” She says that 27 groups have signed a letter exposing this “impermissible segmentation” and urging that the law be followed.
The last speaker at the press conference was Nick Katkevich of FANG, (Fighting Against Natural Gas). Katkevich announced that the groups are planning a 26 mile walk from Burrillville to Providence during the first week of March, regardless of the weather. He also noted that 350 Connecticut plans to protest outside Yale University on February 28 where Senator Whitehouse is scheduled to speak to the Environmental Law Conference.
Katkevich promised that even if the Spectra pipeline expansion is approved, that will not end FANG’s commitment to stopping it. “Federal approval of this project does not mean permission from the people. So we’re going to continue to use diverse, non-violent tactics to make sure that this project is not built.”