Brooklyn Boro

Cut in rate hike, temporary halt fail to satisfy opponents of North Brooklyn pipeline

Pols, Sane Energy Project still claim pipeline is too hazardous

August 16, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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Despite the fact that the state Public Service Commission last week slashed a rate hike that gas provider National Grid planned to charge customers in Brooklyn and nearby areas, a New York City environmental group strongly opposed the increase in general, saying it “continues climate denial and environmental racism.”

The group, Sane Energy Project, particularly opposes the PSC’s actions regarding the controversial North Brooklyn Pipeline, even though the state regulators denied funding for the 7-mile structure until National Grid meets metrics, or goals, “on demand-reducing initiatives before seeking cost recovery of this and other infrastructure projects,” subject to review by an independent consultant who would evaluate emissions impacts.

“While the Commission’s ruling today will halt construction of the last phase of the North Brooklyn Pipeline, National Grid took advantage of multiple delays in the rate case process to build most of the controversial project,” a statement from Sane Energy Project said.

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“The Commission today ruled that customers will have to pay for phases 1-4 of the project, which are already built. This financially rewards the utility for putting pipes in the ground over the widespread objections of local community members, local elected officials, the mayor of New York, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer,” the group continued.

The proposed pipeline’s route goes through East Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Brownsville. This is one of the pipeline opponents’ main objections — that, in effect, “it puts the health and
safety of predominantly Black and Brown working-class neighborhoods at risk.”

Members of the Sane Energy Project and local residents opposed the North Brooklyn Pipeline at a meeting in January 2020. Eagle file photo by Paul Frangipane

It also opposes the pipeline because it would presumably carry fracked gas, and natural-gas fracking is a process widely criticized by environmentalists for causing water contamination and negatively affecting human health in those areas where the process is done, as well as exacerbating climate change. In addition, Sane Energy Project says, “there are high levels of radon in this fracked gas from PA, and detrimental to asthma patients, children, pets.”

Sen. Schumer made public his opposition to the North Brooklyn Pipeline in November, while B.P. Adams said in September on Twitter that “The North Brooklyn Pipeline proposal, to invest hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars over the next three years to expand and extend the life of fracked gas infrastructure, takes us in the wrong direction.”

De Blasio said in September that “I am voicing my opposition to National Grid’s North Brooklyn Pipeline because we cannot justify the environmental impacts on the largely Black and Brown residents of Brooklyn associated with an unnecessary pipeline expansion.”

A map of the pipeline route in Brooklyn. Map courtesy of Sane Energy Project

Sane Energy Project has also been joined by local groups and activists. For example, Gabriel Jamison of the Brownsville Residents Green Committee said, “The decision of the Public Service Commission is a continuation of environmental racism .. Our state and city agencies are in the pocket of National Grid .. Since the state proved today that they do not believe Black lives matter, the people have to take actions, organize and mobilize and shut this pipeline down.”

The statement from the PSC, on the other hand, pointed out that while National Grid originally requested a rate increase of 19 percent, the rate hikes approved for New York would cost customers monthly bill increases of 2 percent in the first year, 3.8 percent in the second year and 3.3 percent in the third year, a sharp decrease.

In addition to the aforementioned objections to the pipeline, Sane Energy Project, on its website, charges that gas pipelines are not safe. “Filed in the United State Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Materials Administration (PHMSA) from 2016-2018 there was an average of 639 pipeline incidents per year resulting in 15 fatalities, 72 injuries, and a cost to the public nearly $600 million,” the group says.

Some community members have launched a “gas bill strike,” demonstrating their refusal to pay for the pipeline.

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