What happens when you disappear an entire community from view when making the case to build yet another fracked gas power plant? You are essentially lying with maps. This is the case with the Danskammer power plant, and the result is nothing short of environmental injustice.

The Hudson Valley is now overbuilt with fracked gas power plants, with a new one on the way. …

While the public-at-large adheres to lockdown guidelines due to Covid-19, the oil and gas industry is running roughshod over local communities, refusing to curtail its projects. As soon as Covid-19 became a threat to the incessant pursuit of ever-more infrastructure, industry called in its chips at the Trump Administration, securing ‘Essential Critical Infrastructure’ status for all its projects. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) went so far as to create a new upper management position — the ‘Pandemic Liaison’ — designed not to address growing public outrage, but to streamline services to industry. …

As part of President Trump’s ongoing campaign for a ‘packed churches’ Easter miracle, a dangerous trial balloon has been launched in the form of a ‘risk map’. Not known for his cartographic integrity — think Sharpie-Gate — Trump’s latest contrivance is county-by-county trojan horse ostensibly designed to inform the public as follows¹:

“Our expanded testing capabilities will quickly enable us to publish criteria, developed in close coordination with the nation’s public health officials and scientists, to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to the nation’s governors.

The Trump ‘Sharpie Map’ | Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Like all…

In the depths of the Great Recession, fracking took hold in American shale basins, spawning an unending, debt-fueled glut of domestic oil and gas. To prop up the industry, a euphemistic nomenclature was propagated, undergirded by the ubiquitous bridge fuel trope¹.

Bridge Collapse| https://giphy.com/

Linking together a dirty past (coal), a necessarily muddled present and a bright, clean mythical future, the Natural Gas as Bridge Fuel trope has always required a herculean suspension of disbelief. In practice, a bridge fuel operates to continue fossil fuel dependencies, bridging over inconvenient scientific facts in service of a mythical utopian future. …

To date, the unrelenting ‘natural’ gas infrastructure buildout of frack pads, gathering lines, interstate pipelines, compressor stations, power plants, cracker plants and LNG ports has occurred largely ‘upstream’¹ of America’s urban centers. Within urban centers, smaller local distribution pipes dominate —invisible, mundane urban infrastructure. Recently, however, an intrusive push for upstream infrastructure within urban centers is taking shape.

Case in point: The Weymouth Enbridge Compression Station, just south of Boston, Massachusetts.

The preponderance of rural gas compressors (black dots) vs those few sited in high urban density (pink boxes), including the Weymouth compressor. Data: HIFLD Open Data, Mapped by author.

Compressor Stations are a notoriously noxious. Designed to ‘compress’ gas over long distances, they periodically ‘blowdown’ — ie, blowout gas in a pipeline section under tremendous pressure, causing massive…

Enbridge’s Texas Eastern Transmission Pipeline ‘TETCO’ — site of explosion, August 1, 2019, Lincoln County, Kentucky | GIS mapping & imagery by author.

I n the early hours of the first day of August, 2019, an unassuming mobile home park experienced firsthand the nightmare lurking in thousands of everyday backyards across the United States. Located in Lincoln County in the middle of Kentucky, this particular rural development blew up overnight, resulting in one death, multiple injuries and incinerated properties. Thrust into national headlines, the shock of the event was the dominant lede, short on details tied to the cause and context of the tragedy.

During the winter of 2013–2014, the Northeastern United States was plunged into a deep freeze due to a seemingly rarified weather pattern known as the ‘Polar Vortex’. In the short half decade since, the phenomenon has become increasingly familiar, punctuating relatively mild winters with short-lived yet drastic deep freezes. Even as the science behind increasing climate instability that is driving these events is well documented, that doesn’t stop the gas industry from extorting this extreme weather for all its fear-inducing value in order to push more pipelines.

2019 Polar Vortex event across northeast | Source: Photojournal JPL/NASA.

Like clockwork, each season’s impending polar vortex delivers a new series of invectives…

Proposed Weymouth Compressor Station Site Location | Mapped by Author.

Coming just days after the disastrous decision in Virginia by its Department of Environmental Quality Air Board to approve the siting of a massive shale gas compressor in a known and documented historical African American and Environmental Justice community, Massachusetts today stands at the very same precipice. There are two stark choices:

  • Green light an obviously troubled project, occupying an unsuitable site, impacting abutting Environmental Justice communities with a further toxic burden.


  • Pull the plug on a project entirely inconsistent with Massachusetts’ trends and benchmarks for simple, matter-of-fact climate adaption and climate justice.

There is a very strong case…

Dominion Energy’s Proposed Buckingham Compressor & Community Survey Locations overlaid to Virginia Address Points | Mapped by Author.

Yes, the title is provocative, but its not entirely mine. I simply and liberally borrow from the classic Mark Monmonier primer entitled How to Lie with Maps. But the reality of this ‘case study’ is indeed provocative, and it amounts to nothing less than outright environmental racism under the direction of ‘one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy’, Dominion Energy.

In the following maps, charts and discussion, I detail the mechanisms behind Dominion Energy’s use of a ‘product’ from ESRI based in California; the ‘skills’ of one international environmental firm; ‘validated’ by an academic institution in Virginia

Faso Protest Poster, 2017 | Jess Irish

Late in former NY19 representative Chris Gibson’s career — February 19, 2016 to be exact — he authored a pointed request to The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take the warranted concerns of his constituents over Fracked Gas infrastructure seriously. Its been 990 days since that letter, 990 days in which constituents of the NY19 have had absolutely no Federal representation of their concerns in matters related to big oil and gas development within the NY19.

This disregard makes people upset, and on November 6th, 2018 it may very well come to an end. Its well known that…

Stephen Metts

GIS Analyst & Instructor | Shale Gas Impacts, Environmental Justice & Climate Change Issues

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