The power is ours
November 1, 2012 —
In a democracy, there are different ways for people to be empowered. In the run-up to Election Day on Tuesday, one way seems obvious: at the ballot box, citizens still hold real power—one man, one woman, one vote at a time—if they chose to exercise it. Another vehicle for empowerment can be seen these days every time a group of citizens gathers in Orange County at the construction site of a natural gas compressor station in the Town of Minisink, NY to raise their voices and hoist their protest signs against an industrial-scale project being built in their residential neighborhood.
The right of these citizens to assemble—and thus their right to protest—is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution. They and others, who have taken up their cause, come together as individuals to increase their collective influence and authority against powerful opposition. Arrayed against them are the multi-million-dollar Millennium Pipeline Company that is pushing forward with construction and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has declined to halt the work. The determined protestors continue to press their case through every means available, including enlisting other individuals and organizations to join their fight. This is grassroots “people power” practiced in a time-honored way.
Another tool of empowerment was the citizens’ online petition, launched in 2011, which demanded that FERC deny approval for the compressor station. It outlined the residents’ health and safety concerns, which they also expressed in municipal public meetings. Among their concerns are the potential for carcinogens to be released into the air and water of their community and the potential impact of noise and vibrations, 24 hours a day, of such a large industrial machine in their midst. Further, the petition listed their grievances, including that there had been no independent health or safety studies and no independent environmental impact reviews had been made.