It’s hard to paint any ruling against the Williams Pipeline as a success. We know it’ll be an ongoing battle. That being said, part of the reason Surfrider NYC considers the campaign a victory is the support from surfers and the local citizens in Rockaway who stepped up to create awareness about the pollution issues.
Per Anderson is one of those Rockaway locals. In a recent conversation, he talked about his experience making the film, screening it at festivals, and marching across the Brooklyn Bridge with other citizens to unite in opposing the pipeline. Here’s what Per Anderson had to say about his experience:
“Tulsa-based energy company Williams proposed a fracked gas pipeline to run through New York harbor and the waters off Rockaway Beach. The Rockaways were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and–after years of rebuilding the local economy–it seemed foolish to risk that recovery with new fossil fuel infrastructure.
We connected with campaign lead Noelle Picone, who invited us to a series of public hearings in February. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation would then decide on the proposal in the spring. Would there even be time to make the film before the issue was settled?
Even so, who would see it? I was interested in the process of getting others engaged, not only New Yorkers, but anyone who wanted to make a difference in their community. This meant live audience screenings at festivals, instead of simply releasing it online. At the time, the improbably-named Swiss Surf Film Festival was seeking submissions. The festival director was enthusiastic about the project, but we had to finish it by March 15th.
Time to move quickly. I recruited my friends Katherine and Dan as producers. Katherine scheduled a beach location scout, and some practicalities came into focus. Did I mention that NYC is freezing in February? From deep inside his winter pea coat, Dan posted to Instagram, tagging it: “#killme”.
The local community rallied. Before long, Katherine organized a beach shack to base the production, free rental gear from a surf shop, talented crew, and a cast of local Rockaway surfers willing to fight for the beach. Chief among them was Dillon, who gave an impassioned speech at the public hearing, forming the backbone of the film.
On April 19th, hundreds of activists demonstrated at City Hall, asking Governor Cuomo to declare a climate emergency and put a stop to the Williams Pipeline. Would the Governor listen? Marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, I was reminded that it takes a lot of noise to bring about real change.
During the rest of 2019, Signature played at a dozen film festivals in Europe and North America, picking up two awards. Although a local story, I hoped the message would encourage others to make a difference in their own communities. It was also humbling to meet other filmmakers working on projects spanning years, sometimes, involving great personal risk.
What is the status of the pipeline proposal now? The New York DEC rejected it in May. Williams promptly reapplied, but Governor Cuomo later announced his opposition in September. Victory! – for now.”