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Former pipeline opponents in Philadelphia fighting for clean energy, Sanders



By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff

"Several southern New Hampshire residents brought together by the fight against the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline have taken their push for a clean energy future to the Democratic National Convention.

Fitzwilliam and Rindge residents were among approximately 10,000 people from across the country to take to Philadelphia’s streets Sunday afternoon on the eve of the convention. They demanded politicians act now to fight climate change by banning fracking, ending the use of fossil fuels, transitioning to have the country’s energy supplied from solely renewable resources, and practicing environmental justice for everyone.

Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on making sure everyone has access to healthy food and clean water, led the organization of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution.

“I felt I had to be present,” Rindge resident Patricia A. Martin said Tuesday.

N.H. Democrats have let proponents of clean energy down by not providing enough leadership in recognizing and addressing climate change, she said. The national party has done a bit better, but still isn’t acting as swiftly as it should, she said.

“No one seems to be taking this seriously,” Martin said. “They just don’t really seem to be making the connection to what a bad situation they’re putting us in, more so for our children and grandchildren.”Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, a subsidiary of energy giant Kinder Morgan, had proposed building the 419-mile interstate pipeline to carry fracked natural gas from the shale fields of northern Pennsylvania to a hub in Dracut, Mass. Along the way, it was slated to pass through 18 towns in southern New Hampshire, including the Cheshire County communities of Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester.

Officials and residents in all the towns that stood to be affected began efforts to oppose the project soon after it became clear in late 2014 that they were in the path of the pipeline.

Tennessee Gas withdrew its federal application for the project in May, ending any possibility of the pipeline moving forward and setting the project back by years if the company ever decides to pursue it again.

Martin and fellow Rindge resident Gail E. Dufresne, who, like Martin, was heavily involved in the opposition to the pipeline project, drove to Hartford, Conn., early Sunday morning to take a bus to Philadelphia.

Other area pipeline opponents Gwen Whitbeck and her husband, Doug, of Mason; and Mary Beth Raven and her daughter, Taylor, of New Ipswich, joined Martin and Dufresne from the bus ride and march.At the march, they all met up with Fitzwilliam resident Stephanie Scherr, Temple resident Laura J. Lynch, Anne Dicicco of Hollis, and Dicicco’s daughter, Hannah Rudd of Ayer, Mass. The group carried a banner stating “Fossil Free in the 603” during the roughly mile-long procession, which began at Philadelphia City Hall.

Martin, who participated in a New York City climate march in 2014, said walking through the streets of Philadelphia in 90-plus-degree heat was difficult, but they all brought water bottles that they filled at stations along the route.

Despite the heat, Scherr said, people stayed calm. The New Hampshire group met up with other protesters from the Granite State and Vermont, as well as people they had communicated with via phone and email during the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline fight, but had never met in person.

Being politically active, let alone participating in a protest, was a new experience for her, said Dufresne, who wasn’t an activist before the pipeline was proposed to travel through New Hampshire.

“I am 60, and this is the first real election that I really have gotten into,” she said. “I think what has gotten me so interested is my eyes being opened to the environment and what we’re doing to the Earth, including robbing it of its minerals.

”She argued that pipeline and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects are causing people to get sick and water to be polluted.“This really sparked in me that I really want to leave a clean Earth for the future generations,” she said.

Marching with so many diverse groups of people, all there for a common goal, was powerful, she said, describing how everyone there wanted change, and they wanted it to happen with love and not hate.

“We need to rattle people to their core so they actually wake up like I did,” she said.

After Sunday’s march, Scherr, Lynch, Dicicco and Rudd stayed for a march Monday in support of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost his bid to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

Protesters also took aim at the Democratic National Committee for its alleged favoritism of Clinton — claims bolstered by emails between committee officials that were released within the past week by WikiLeaks — and for not pushing what they consider a progressive-enough agenda.

Scherr described both events as uplifting, peaceful protests, especially Monday’s march.

She said she plans to continue to participate in the protests through the end of the convention Thursday night.Thousands of people participated in Monday’s march, which ended at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. There were speakers, large television screens and a tent for a Jill Stein rally to take place at the park, Scherr said.Stein is running for president as a member of the Green Party.

Marchers shared signs and stories at the park until a strong thunderstorm hit, and people stood under trees getting soaked, but still enjoying themselves, Scherr said.

Eventually the protesters left the park and walked to the nearest subway station. Along the way, they stopped under an overpass where musicians brought out instruments to play “This Land is Your Land” as people sang along, she said.

Lynch said she, too, enjoyed that moment of spontaneity, and hopes the protests help Clinton, Democratic party leaders and other politicians realize how committed those who backed Sanders are to ending fracking and the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“They’re going to have to start taking us seriously,” she said. “We don’t want this anymore.”

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