By Mary Frost
A $1 billion natural gas pipeline that would cut across 23 miles of lower New York Bay has pitted those with environmental concerns against the Williams Company, which says the new pipeline would provide much needed natural gas capacity to Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Wednesday voiced his opposition to the Williams Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline.
“The 23-mile pipeline would extend from New Jersey, along the Staten Island coast, past Coney Island and into the Rockaways,” Stringer said in a statement. “Allowing the construction of the pipeline risks damage to many of New York’s most precious habitats and natural assets, including New York Harbor, Jamaica Bay, and the Rockaway’s many beaches.”
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that construction and operation of the pipeline would result in “some adverse environmental impacts.” According to the review, however, most of these impacts would be temporary, such was water “turbidity, sedimentation, and pile driving noise.”
Stringer said that the impact statement doesn’t take into account climate change and rising sea levels, and wants a re-do.
Byproduct of Fracking
Stringer’s announcement came as dozens of protesters rallied outside Barclays Bank on Wednesday, where Williams CEO Alan Armstrong was scheduled to speak at the Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference in Manhattan. Williams owns and operates more than 33,000 miles of pipelines across the country.
Pete Sikora, Climate Campaigns Director for New York Communities for Change (NYCC), said in a statement that communities in New York and New Jersey had been “fighting the project for years.”
“NYC Comptroller Stringer’s opposition to the massive fracked gas Williams pipeline raises the bar for elected officials to join us as we rise for climate,” Sikora said in a statement. “Together, we can stop these polluting projects and move to 100 percent renewable energy through good union jobs.”
A public hearing about the pipeline took place in Bay Ridge on April 26. According to the Rockaway Times, the meeting was far from public, however, since the public comments were “only permitted in a closed room” and it was not known how many people showed up in support of the project or against it.
Williams, however, says the pipeline is necessary to meet expected residential and commercial growth in the city, including the 1.8 million customers served by National Grid in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.
The propose pipeline would connect to the Rockaway Delivery Lateral pipeline, which travels under the Rockaways at Jacob Riis Park and across the Rockaway inlet to Floyd Bennett Field. The line continues up Flatbush Avenue and into National Grid’s main system.
The City Is Growing and Needs More Gas
National Grid’s need for natural gas is expected to continue by more than 10 percent over the next 10 years, according to Williams. Much is due to continued conversion of oil heat to natural gas as well as increased demand from new construction.
New York’s use of more polluting heavy fuel oils is decreasing, the company said in a statement online. “That is why critical infrastructure projects like Northeast Supply Enhancement, a $1 billion investment in the region, are vital to securing continued emission reductions, promoting economic development, and improving the reliability of New York’s natural gas delivery network.” Williams hopes to have the pipeline complete by the 2020 winter heating season to help the City reach its “aggressive” clean air goals, the company said.
On Friday, a company spokesperson told the Eagle that the pipeline would allow National Grid to annually displace approximately 900,000 barrels of heating oil and reduce CO2 emissions in New York City and Long Island.
“This is the equivalent of removing nearly 500,000 cars from the road for one year. In addition, these conversions will reduce local emissions by 300 tons per year, including smog, acid rain and particulates that have negative health and environmental effects,” he said. The project is an enhancement of existing energy infrastructure already in place, he added.
Stringer is also getting pushback from the NYS Laborers Union (LECET).
“The inclusion of natural gas in the city’s broader energy mix is actually helping us meet the emissions reduction goal he [Stringer] references,” Pat Purcell, executive director of NYS LECET, told the Eagle in an email on Friday. He added that the development of natural gas infrastructure will lead to the creation of thousands of union jobs.
Stringer, however, says the construction of the pipeline is “a monumental step backwards.”
“Our goal of cutting 80 percent of emissions by 2050 makes the construction of this pipeline wholly unnecessary. Rather than enhance the energy infrastructure of yesterday, our city must instead do all that it can to transition to renewable energy sources and promote greater energy efficiency.”
Williams operates the Transco pipeline – a 10,000-mile interstate transmission pipeline system which transports much of the natural gas consumed in the northeastern United States. Dependent upon commission approval and all other necessary permits and approvals, Transco proposes to begin construction of the pipeline in early 2019.