You could not miss the protesters.
Holding signs at what has become the Hyde Park corner of Orange County — the local equivalent of the place in London where people bring important issues to public attention — more than 50 people encouraged honks from passing motorists at the intersection of Routes 300 and 17K on Sunday to protest the proposed Pilgrim Oil Pipeline.
This is an issue that needs work if it is going to stay on the top of local minds, as it should. It calls for dual lines running 178 miles from Linden, N.J., where the largest refinery on the East Coast is located, to Albany. One would carry crude oil from Albany while the neighboring line would carry gas and other refined oil products in the other direction.
There are several issues involved.
Some believe that is is the wrong idea at a bad time. With global warming and its effects harder to ignore by the month, with advancements in alternative energy attracting official attention and private investment, this is not the time to put a lot of money into infrastructure that looks back and not ahead.
That might be a bit too philosophical for some, but the pipeline also has lots of practical concerns.
Two lines running over that distance through populated areas raise the specter of environmental disaster. The firms that want to build this pipeline cannot offer the kinds of assurances that those living near it are likely to accept.
Those driving by who were inspired to give the thumbs up or honk now have to ask themselves what more can they do if they want to stop the line from being approved. The answer lies in the state Legislature, especially in the elections that will send people there this November.
Many communities along the route of the pipeline have passed resolutions opposing its construction but they have no legal force. The determination about whether or not the pipeline will be built, whether or not it poses a significant threat to the environment rests solely with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Thruway Authority who are overseeing the official review. And all you have to do is look at the furor in Hoosick Falls, site of water contamination ignored by state authorities for months, or the City of Newburgh, where documented water pollution struggled to get the attention it deserves from the state, to see how trust in the current administration has dissolved.
Last year, in an effort to give towns around here a say in their own well-being, Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton, managed to get a bill passed that would give towns the ability to allow or deny such projects. Even though we have senators representing these same towns, they failed to do much about it. A Skartados bill prohibiting the pipeline from running along the Thruway attracted support from many local members of the Assembly but died in committee and did not even show up in the Senate.
Honking is refreshing. Voting is more effective, especially if you make sure that those who get your vote will represent your interests in Albany.