Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas Heat – The Ithaca Commons Thread


The Ithaca Commons, one of those struggling pedestrian mall projects from a couple of generations back, is undergoing an upgrade and part of the project is an expansion of natural gas service, right there in Planet Ithaca.

Our readers will recall a series of posts we did called “There Ought To Be A Law.”  We did a playful return to the era of that famous cartoon strip by the same name and noted how many natural gas opponents lived or worked in places that relied upon natural gas for heat.  We found Josh Fox, Tony Ingraffea, Matt RyanSandra Steingraber, Michelle Bamberger, Robert Oswald and the Park Foundation family all live or work in places using natural gas, which in virtually every case involves the use of the hydraulic fracturing process they all condemn in the harshest possible terms.  We have also noted several times the conversion of The Dakota building in New York, where Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon reside, to natural gas.

Such dissonance is perhaps the defining character of so much of the nature gas opposition and now comes a new example: the Ithaca Commons.

The Ithaca Commons is the heartbeat of what we often, in jest, refer to as “Planet Ithaca.”  It’s the kind of place where one is hardly surprised to find the Ithaca Hemp Company or a store catering to “hipsters and goths.”

We don’t have a problem with any of it, to be honest — but these enterprises sort of define the character of the place for folks who may not have visited this downtown Ithaca pedestrian mall that prides itself as being the “center of Ithaca and Tompkins County civic life.”  Those of you thought pedestrian malls were a relic of our 1960’s and 70’s history, a remnant of another trendy idea that didn’t pan out, will find there a few left and Ithaca Commons is one of them.

The Ithaca Commons, perhaps unsurprisingly, is one of the favored locations of natural gas opponents for demonstrations, rallies and other events in opposition to natural gas development.  Here is an example:

2/3/13 – Rally to Resist Fracking at the Ithaca Commons

The rally will “visualize resistance” with a series of mini-trainings on creative resistance tactics, as well as influential speakers…

Over 6,500 New Yorkers have signed the Pledge to Resist Fracking. Between Feb. 3rd and Feb. 9th, seven actions and trainings are taking place across NY, from Livingston County to Albany to NYC. With the the DEC’s February 13th deadline around the corner, it’s time for us to show Gov. Cuomo that New Yorkers aren’t waiting for our communities to be fractured. Join us in Ithaca to say We Will Resist!

The rally will “visualize resistance” with a series of mini-trainings on creative resistance tactics. Bring your instruments, your banners, and your favorite chants! Speakers will include Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking, Martha Robertson, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, Students from NY Youth Against Fracking, and more to be announced!

Cornell University Sustainable Campus

“Visualizing resistance,” huh?  This is the kind of stuff you’re likely to find at the Ithaca Commons.

Then, there is this picture of our friend, the ever genial Walter Hang, railing against oil and gas development at a 2010 rally at the Commons.  That position shouldn’t be too surprising, of course, given his firm, Toxics Targeting, received $330,000 that year alone ($781,250 over three years) from the Park and Rockefeller families to fund his campaign against natural gas.

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But, guess what?  The Ithaca Commons (and Walter Hang’s Toxics Targeting offices on Cayuga Street North) are both heated by natural gas.  The Ithaca Commons, in fact, is getting an upgrade with funding provided by the taxpayers, and the project narrative offers the following:

Existing gas service on the Commons is served via 6-8” low pressure gas lines on the north and south sides of State/MLK Jr. Street and 6” low pressure gas line on Bank Alley.

To better serve the future gas needs for properties along the Commons, NYSEG has agreed to develop medium pressure gas service to the rear of buildings. This will allow for unsightly gas meters and regulators to be located at the rear of buildings and eliminate periodic gas repair excavations on the Commons. Existing low pressure gas lines within the Commons will be abandoned.

The enhancement of natural gas service to the Ithaca Commons is also depicted in this excerpt from a project presentation:

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Note the existing natural gas lines are being upgraded from low pressure to medium pressure because “limited capacity restricts growth.”  Natural gas allows for growth. That’s not news to anyone in the real world, but to folks from Planet Ithaca, it may come as a surprise.  Even in the Ithaca Commons, the pit of the belly of the anti-gas beast, homes and businesses rely on and demand more natural gas — a hundred and one protests to the contrary notwithstanding.

There ought to be a law…

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