Judge McCarthy finds Montrose 9 guilty of blocking a Spectra Energy ware yard to halt pipeline construction, sentencing January 6th.
Cortlandt, NY — Four months after conclusion of the trial, today Judge Daniel McCarthy found the “Montrose 9” guilty of disorderly conduct for blocking traffic in Cortlandt Town Court. The “Montrose 9,” local residents and environmental advocates who were arrested for blocking access to a ware yard in Montrose to halt construction of Spectra Energy’s AIM pipeline on November 9, 2015, claimed that their actions were necessary to prevent a greater harm.
At the Press Conference after Judge McCarthy’s verdict, Defense Counsel, Martin Stolar, a prominent social justice attorney, said “I am extremely disappointed with respect to the necessity defense, which seems so obviously true. We will take it up on appeal. They (the defendants) are heroes, not criminals.”
After months of delay, testimony from the final defendants ended on July 22, 2016. Many of the defendants expressed their concerns about global climate change and environmental damage from the fracked methane gas the pipeline will carry, fear of pipeline explosions and the possibility of another “Fukushima on the Hudson.”
Their goal at trial was to prove that the violation they committed – blockading Spectra from constructing a fracked gas pipeline – was necessary to prevent a greater harm. They demonstrated that Spectra Energy’s AIM pipeline presents immediate risks from explosions and impacts the health and safety of the community. Additionally, they noted that the fossil fuel industry is locking our nation into an unsustainable future of fossil fuels at a time when the country has to move towards renewable energy resources. They made clear that although members of the community had been diligently working through regulatory channels, their efforts were stymied by interminable delays and legal maneuvers, leaving them no recourse but to pursue non-violent direct action.
Although today’s ruling was not the outcome that many present had hoped for, the Montrose 9 and their allies said that they plan to continue the fight.
Marty Stolar: “Judge McCarthy’s verdict is guilty. The Judge rejects the justification as being speculative and the harm is not imminent or about to occur. He then rejects our first amendment defense, and find that the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The justification defense which he rejects, we all know, and you all know, the actions were justified, the harm is imminent, and the pipeline is extraordinarily dangerous, and constitutes a present harm and a present threat to every resident in this town, in this county and of the areas surrounding Indian Point. An appeal will be led after the sentence is imposed on January 6th.”
Susan Rutman: “It is absolutely staggering. This decision is disrespectful. But we will persevere. We cannot be thwarted by the limited scope of the legal system. He (the judge) wouldn’t even make a declaratory statement.”
Andrew Ryan: “This furthers my belief that we are run by a Corp-ocracy. They are people who care only about profits. They create and they interpret the law.”
For over three years, these concerned residents along with a number of groups in Westchester County, petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asking for an independent and transparent study to be done before allowing Spectra’s dangerous Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline to be built. Their concerns, and those of elected officials at all levels of government, were ignored; FERC similarly dismissed the concerns of nuclear safety experts and pipeline experts. This refusal of FERC to acknowledge or address health and safety concerns meant that the local community had no legal or policy recourse, which supported their claim of necessity defense.
As of today’s date, Spectra still has not completed pipeline construction as the project has encountered environmental violations, noise complaints, and legal challenges. For months they have tried and failed to run the 42” pipeline under the Hudson River adjacent to Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, with another attempt slated for this month. As a stop gap measure to bypass their failed river section and salvage the project, FERC granted permission to Spectra Energy to run additional gas through existing pipelines under the Hudson and Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. This scenario, running additional gas through 50- and 60-year-old pipelines under the plant, was never examined by FERC or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for safety and was not a condition granted in the FERC permit.
It is the latest in a string of examples of FERC’s failure to address safety concerns or act in the best interests of public heath and safety. In fact, today, members of Resist Spectra, Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG), and Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) are in Washington DC attending The Peoples’ Hearing, where representatives of impacted communities will provide testimony and evidence of FERC’s abuses of power and law across the country. Their evidence will demonstrate to Congress the need to reform this rogue agency and reexamine their authority under the Natural Gas Act.
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