Drivers who stopped at the corner of Washington and State streets in Schenectady on Wednesday afternoon were greeted by the sound of drums and a large poster reading: “You Can’t Drink Oil.”
Community members stood across the street from Schenectady County Community College waving signs at passing cars to protest the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota.
Members of various community groups gathered in the park from 4 p.m. until about 5:30 p.m. to raise awareness about the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. The event was led by Earth Circles, which is a part of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady. About a dozen people attended in an effort to spread the word about the dangers of oil pipelines and to express support for those opposing the project in North Dakota.
“We want people to know that this is going on everywhere, and we know that pipelines are vulnerable. They leak, they explode, they emit vapors,” said Melinda Perrin, one of the event organizers.
Construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline has sparked protests in recent weeks, with some opposing the project traveling from outside the state to voice concerns. The pipeline would stretch for over 1,100 miles and carry crude oil from North Dakota to a hub in Illinois.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has argued that the pipeline is partially being built on sacred land with historical significance and filed an injunction to halt construction. An appeals court granted on Saturday the request to halt construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe.
Protesters on Wednesday held signs that read “I stand with Standing Rock” and “Honor Treaties, Honor the Earth, No Oil Pipelines, Save Our Water.”
The Dakota Access pipeline isn’t an issue most citizens are familiar with, Perrin said, so she hoped the event would make them aware of the situation. Dozens of cars at a time were backed up at the light at Washington and State Streets while protesters waved signs and banged on drums. The protest was timed to maximize the potential audience and try and get the attention of commuters during rush hour, Perrin said.
Tyler Becker, who is from Cohoes but said he plays baseball at SCCC, said he saw the group gathering across the street from the college.
“I came from class and I grabbed a sign,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think people know much about the issue so raising awareness is important.
There are several pipeline proposals that affect the Capital Region, Perrin said, so raising awareness about the dangers pipelines pose is important.
The Constitution Pipeline is a proposed project that would run 125 miles, from Pennsylvania to Schoharie County. The pipeline was projected to be completed in the second half of 2017; however, in April, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied the company’s permit. The Constitution Pipeline Company in May appealed the DEC’s decision.
The Pilgrim Pipeline is proposed to run from Albany to New Jersey, though the environmental review process has yet to start on that project.
Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.