VERPLANCK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A group climbed into pipe for a natural gas pipeline in northern Westchester County Monday morning, and the sit-in was entering its 16th hour late Monday night as authorities worked to coax the group out.
The group was initially planning to spend the night and stay until noon on Tuesday. But after police threatened to use tactical force to get the group out, the group agreed to come out on their own in what they said was an effort to avoid any damage to the pipe.
“So we’ve been in the Spectra Pipeline for about one hour now,” protester Mackenzie McDonald Wilkins said in a video. “The cops have shown up. They said if we don’t get out of here, they’re going to send three troopers in to drag us out.”
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, McDonald Wilkins is one of four people who were locked together and camped outside the 42-inch pipe Monday night. It is part of a larger protest to stop Spectra Energy’s plans to expand the Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline.
The project will run the pipeline under the Hudson River and too close, protesters say, to the old Indian Point nuclear power plant.
“It runs a 105 feet from all of the electrical sources that power the nuclear power plant — Indian Point — that is aging and leaking on a regular basis and is just incredibly dangerous,” said Jessica Roff of ResistSpectra.
“Now they’re putting this gigantic explosive pipeline adjacent to it,” said Lael Morgan of Croton-on-Hudson.
The group with ResistSpectra, a grassroots organization, trespassed onto the property around 7 a.m. Monday and settled into their temporary home.
Spectra Energy released a statement on Monday saying it respects the right of peaceful protest, but the protest ResistSpectra has launched is not acceptable.
“The protesters today are placing themselves and first responders at risk by entering the pipeline and positioning themselves in a confined space,” the statement said.
The protesters do not agree.
“There’s really no danger to any first responder. They’re just sitting in the pipe there. I don’t buy that at all,” Morgan said. “The pipeline is putting the entire New York area in danger.”
Supporters have rallied around the group with signs and song. They sang, “Shut this pipeline down.”
They say they support the group’s commitment to raising awareness.
“The goal is to get rid of this project,” Roff said. “It’s a terrible project.”
The protesters were told by police that if they do come out on their own, criminal charges will be minimal. They can expect charges of misdemeanor criminal trespass.