Column: Pagans Fight LNG Port Construction in NYC

Guest Contributor —  April 5, 2014 — 18 Comments

[The following is a guest post by Courtney Weber. Courtney Weber is a Wiccan Priestess, writer, Tarot Adviser, and teacher living in New York City. She runs open events in Manhattan and teaches workshops on Witchcraft from coast to coast. Photography in this article is courtesy of George Courtney.]

Warning: This Post Contains a Scary Movie, a Scary Monster, and New Yorkers. (But also cupcakes.)

Six months ago, I organized an event that ended with weepy Witches fleeing the room. I showed a film, which should have come with a trigger warning: “Empaths beware: This film will break your heart chakras.”

The film was Gasland, the documentary exposing the dangers of hydraulic fracturing (“Fracking”) for natural gas extraction. A few of the scariest scenes included kitchen faucets belching blue flames, rivers turned to mass graves of wildlife, bizarre diseases, horses and kitty-cats losing chunks of fur. The gold rush-esque drive for natural gas has pounded on New York State’s front door for years. The film showed how it impacted our neighbors in Pennsylvania along with other regions and how quickly it could happen in our state, too. Witch tears flowed at views of the toxic rape of our very regional land. Guests thanked me for screening the film, but also thanked me in advance for never, ever showing it again.

(By the way…if you haven’t seen Gasland, you need to make time to see it. I do recommend having your favorite two or four-legged creature nearby for comfort-snuggles. And a cupcake.)

A few months later, I was mean enough to consider showing the sequel: Gasland 2, an even more violent depiction of an actual assault on Mother Earth, but with a much more apocalyptic and panicked conclusion. My friend Damon Stang sagely recommended that we do something else. Maybe we throw a party, instead? Maybe a ritual, too? Get active without bringing people down? The Pagan community is attuned and aware of the environmental problems we face. Why not focus on solutions instead of bad-scary problems?

It was a wonderful idea, I agreed. Let’s have a “fix-it” gathering instead of a depressing gathering focused solely on scary awareness. We’ll have speakers talk to us about ways to help and raise energy to motivate ourselves and Magickally help the cause. Let’s have a pretty Witch do burlesque and more pretty Witches sing songs onstage! And this time…..CUPCAKES. LOTS OF THEM.

As it turned out, the timing could not have been more pertinent.

Fracking hasn’t started in New York, but an equally ugly monster is making its way over here. A company with a strange business address in the Cayman Islands has applied to build a liquefied natural gas plant off the coast of Long Island. This is a terrible, terrible idea. Here are few reasons why:

  1. STORMS, GUYS! One of these days we’re going to get another Sandy and it will totally beat the crap out of an LNG port and spill its natural gas guts into the sea. Bye-bye beaches. And whales.
  2. BIG-ASS-TERRORIST TARGET. Oh, sweet. Let’s go paint one more scarlet bull’s eye on this town. That bull’s eye would also have massive tankers lurking around the port. One guy taking a boat and slamming it into the side of a tanker could potentially causing 2nd degree burns on all the people within a mile radius—“the kind of intensity our industrial fires have never seen…there is no way to put out that kind of fire.” It sounds a lot like Wildfire and Stannis Baratheon’s fleet. AWESOME. And by “awesome” I mean “suck.” Leave it in books and television.
  3. WIND!!!! Another proposed project is a big, beautiful, wind farm fifteen miles off the coast, which will lovingly green-power our region. It has applied for the same stretch of water as the LNG port, and the powers that be say we have to pick one or the other. The wind plant would actually create an artificial reef which would help local fisheries and would be far enough away at sea so as not to impact tourist views. Turbines would be set far enough apart for whales to navigate around, easily. Whales historically haven’t had that kind of luck navigating around fossil fuel spills.
  4. IT’S NOT ABOUT US. The Port Ambrose project claims to be an import station to help the region gain energy independence…but directly across the Atlantic sits a ready-made natural gas import station, posed like a hungry-hungry hippo to gobble up all the fracked shale gas from North America. It’s not going to import, but export. It will help a select few gain a ton of money by sending cheap, fracked gas overseas: overcharging our friends in Europe and polluting our land, water, and air at home. The rich get richer and the poor get flaming faucets.

I could go on about how it’s only going to create 20 permanent jobs while the wind farm would create 250…plus methane emissions from natural gas contributing to climate change….but let’s focus on solutions. We wanted to make our voices heard, but we wanted to have fun doing it. We wanted Governor to hear us say “NO TO LNG.”

Still disturbed by the Gasland viewing, but also inspired, Witches gathered at Catland Books, on Monday, March 24 for a party. We included burlesque by Sweet n’ Lo, the Queer Mermaid of the NYC Pagan Scene and had music by Thorazine Unicorn—the Electro-Goth Chiptunes band, 100% composed of Real Witches:

Thorazine Unicorn provides the dance break

Thorazine Unicorn provides the dance break.

Caption: David Alicea of the Sierra Club

David Alicea of the Sierra Club

The plan was to each call the Governor on entertainment breaks, but the voicemail boxes were full. Lame. Still, petitions were signed and speakers spoke. How do you solve a problem like fracking? Our speakers shared their views on the problems with the LNG port and what local people can do about it.

As opposed to the Gasland night, people laughed and cheered instead of wept. Our community truly had had enough doom—they needed outlet for the concerns. It was helpful to have ears outside the Pagan community. Within any community, it’s easy to believe we’re the only ones who care. Activists often feel the same way as many Pagans do—all of us operating in our sad little fishbowls thinking we’re alone in this. Bridging these communities—all lovers of Gaia in different ways—helped us become acutely aware of one another and how we can work together. Edie Kantrowitz of United for Action said, “NeoPagans certainly know the importance of protecting the Earth. It’s exciting to see that the Pagan community is becoming increasingly interested in environmental activism.”

Our night culminated with a ritual to cleanse ourselves of dependence on fossil fuels, and charge green apples with “hunger for green energy.” The apples were taken to Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—the trajectory of the fracked gas to the proposed port.

Cleansing away addiction to fossil fuels

Cleansing away addiction to fossil fuels

It was an important step for our community. We love our land and waters. Sandy has made us acutely aware of the side effects of climate change. We moved from “What do we do?” to “What do we do, next?” While the call-in element went far more 8 of Swords than 8 of Wands, the event sparked interest, desire, and most importantly, concrete tools of action. In the coming weeks, the planning group will be meeting again to brainstorm next steps.

Charging apples with hunger for green energy

Charging apples with hunger for green energy

It’s not just a New York thing. Due to fracking, the US is posed to be the leading exporter of natural gas, globally. American companies have submitted 21 applications to build export plants around the country—as of this posting, 6 have been approved. Check your beaches. Are they building one near you? If so, what will you do to stop it?

The idea of stopping this landslide seems daunting—but then again, so has every major switch in civilization. A century and a half ago, our country was fed the same lies we are fed about fossil fuels. People were told the enslavement of human beings was necessary for a country’s economic survival. Not so long after that, other people were told that empowering women with the right to vote would decimate our societal structure. Change came from small groups of people who knew in their souls that these things were wrong on their basest level. Historically, social justice and change is rooted in places of faith and Spirit—Churches, Synagogues, and Mosques. We can include Circles, Groves and the back rooms of occult bookstores to that list as it’s happening here and now.

If you are in New York State, You can find your NYS Senator and phone number by clicking on this link. You can find your NYS Assembly Member and phone number by clicking on this link. Call to Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 or leave a comment and tell him you oppose the LNG Port Ambrose project and ask the governor to veto the project.

If you are not in New York State, find out what threatens your region. Find your local grassroots organizers and invite them to your next Circle. Find what breaks your heart and address it in a way that gives you joy. Raising energy and Circling together can only go so far—we have to break the Circle of dependence and sometimes that means stepping into uncharted Groves. If we truly honor the Earth as Mother and Goddess, we have an obligation to fight for change in the way she is treated. But we can also have fun doing it. My community loves dancing, music, and ecstatic ritual. What does your community love and how can you connect it to the work that needs to be done?

Blessed Be, Kitty Kats! Happy Spring!

[We would like to thank Courtney Weber for sharing this slice of New York Pagan life. The views in this guest post reflect those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Wild Hunt or its staff.]


Guest Contributor


  • Finchy

    It’s well known that Gasland is funded by Saudi money in order to discredit Canadian Oilsands so they don’t lose money to Canada. The World uses oil for the forseeable future so you have a choice of where it comes from. Canada who has environmental laws, rights for women and homosexuals and is an all around nice place or Saudi Arabia where we would all be killed as infidels and this discussion would never take place.

    • Deborah Bender

      “It’s well known”? Citations, please.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      “The World uses oil for the forseeable future.”

      Only if you are *really* short-sighted.

    • I’m not sure why I’m bothering to respond to you. You clearly have never seen Gasland because you don’t even know what it’s about.

      If you want to play the “foreigners are controlling us” card, I suggest you look carefully into who owns most of the fracking companies. Many of them are not owned by Americans.

      I don’t get why anyone would argue for the “right” of a corporation to come into any community in America and pollute the air, land, and water. I’m in law school right now and what I’ve discovered is the oil and gas industry is exempt from almost all of our environmental laws. CERCLA (so even if the sites are hazardous when they are done, we can’t force them to clean it up), the Safe Drinking Water Act (fracking chemicals are exempt from “underground injection” regulations), the Clean Air Act (oil and gas fields are regulated per well, which does not produce enough pollution alone to trigger the laws but in aggregate, the air pollution is enormous… and exempt. Did you know North Dakota now has smog problems worse than Los Angeles?) etc.

      We have the science and technology to create a much cleaner energy future, and quickly (see What is lacking is the political will to do so, because the oil and gas companies own our government. That sounds like conspiracy theorist mumbo-jumbo but all you have to do is look at the campaign contribution records to see the truth of it.

    • Courtney Weber

      I highly doubt this is the case, considering “Gasland” does not focus on Oilsands or Canada, but rather Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring event. I’d love to get further details on the ritual to banish dependence on fossil fuels and charging the apples.

    • Courtney Weber

      Hi Hecate! Thank you for stopping by. It was really a collaborative effort. One of the leading participants is from West Virginia and does a lot of work with Water Spirituality. Given the environmental damage in the waters of WV as of late, it was natural for her to lead an exercise in which we cleansed one another with water blessed to release our dependence. Another participant split the group in two–one group focused on Earth and green energy, the other side focused on Fire and Willing the green energy *hunger* to grow. We used heavy amounts of chant, drumming, and dance. If you’re looking to do this in your own area, it works best when led by individuals with deep, emotional connections to the cause, and mirror it to your area. We have five areas that need increased focus on Green Energy in our vicinity–Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan–naturally, followed by Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which would “truck” the gas in. I hope that helps! 😀

  • Charles Cosimano

    How about a ritual to make the sun stand still in the heavens.

    • Courtney Weber

      We’re not that advanced. 🙂

  • E Wolfsbane

    This piece obviously written by a immature, mentally deficient moron makes me want to contact my NY state assemblyman and demand they vote to approve this LNG facility even though I’m normally extremely opposed to fracking.

    • Assemblyman

      Who is the immature and mentally deficient “moron” here? The author, or the commenter name calling and throwing out insults? If you think you have valid points to contribute to an argument, then perhaps you should consider a more “mature” response rather than insulting someone, much to the effect of a grade school bully. If anything, this author has done what most people have not attempted to do in raising awareness and taking action to stop hydrofracking in her state. What have you done with your insulting comments? Sit comfortably behind a computer and try to bring down someone who made the sacrifice of her time and energy for the greater community. What exactly have you done or written? Is your writing style so much better? Please. Share with us.

    • Courtney Weber

      If you don’t agree with what you’ve read, you may want to consider posting your specific arguments. Calling me *a immature* (should be *AN immature*), mentally deficient moron doesn’t explain why you feel the LNG facility should be approved.

      • Wolfsbane

        Try reading for comprehension.
        I DON”T think it should be built. I’m opposed to fracking.
        I DON”T think what you wrote in this article is likely to convince anyone with the power to prevent it from being built to take your efforts seriously.
        I think it gives ammunition to the interests who desire it’s construction. It provides them with the tools with which to convince the Albany political machine to disregard those of us who are opposed to it.
        You might as well be on the fracking industries’ payroll.

  • Thank you for this post! I’m glad to know the downstate Pagans are active, even if they can’t stomach watching Gasland. Perhaps if there was ritual around it? Somehow we must be able to look at the truth of what is happening and then not get lost in despair. For what it’s worth, I found Gasland II to be more inspirational. But maybe it’s because I saw so many people I know in it. As an upstate Fractivist, the Reclaiming Tradition has been the balm for my soul that has kept me going. Regarding the LNG facility, you should look up Citizens Campaign for the Environment. They are adamantly non-partisan and work with both sides of the aisle. They were instrumental in successfully fighting off a LNG terminal proposal in Long Island Sound in 2006 or 2007.

    • Courtney Weber

      Hi Zay! We did do a ritual as part of the screening–I think as NYC dwellers, we’re bombarded with so much bad news so much of the time, that it’s a better balance to focus on solutions than focus on yet another screening. 🙂 I would like to talk with you about Upstate Fracktivism. How can I reach you?

      • Daniel FitzGerald

        We’re really hurting upstate over this. Binghamton and Owego, which by the way have a HUGE number of resident Pagans, are ground zero for facking. This issue is so devicive around here that in Owego they say its neighbor against neighbor. Plus our powerful state senator , Republican Tom Libbous, is in the pockets of and invested in the natural gas industry. He singlehandedly managed to torpedo anti-fracking legislation about a year and a half back.

        • Courtney Weber

          Daniel, thank you for stopping by. I’d love to be able to connect with you to share further information and ways we can support one another. Is there a way to contact you?

          • Daniel FitzGerald

            Yes. See if you can friend or message me on Facebook, and I can pass you my contact info that way. If you can’t, post again and we can work to find another way to share my info.

            I’m totally opposed to fracking, but I will want to talk to my father before I make any decisions on how I feel about the LNG port. He’s a 35 year veteran merchant mariner with Port of New York pilotage, and will give me the straight up on how he feels alout the proposed LNG port. In other words, he’ll tell me if its need is independent to the burgeoning natural gas industry (LNG tankers have been around a long time… great pay and benefits if you don’t mind working on something that cold potentially blow you and the nearest area code clear into the Summerlands).