Activists say analysis of Greenpoint Energy Center expansion is flawed, call on DEC to reject permits

people rally outside the greenpoint energy center
Greenpoint neighbors and activists rallied outside the Greenpoint Energy Center on Maspeth Avenue, where National Grid is seeking the final permits to build two new liquified natural gas vaporizers.
Photo: Ken Schles

Climate and environmental activists say National Grid’s assessment of the impact the proposed construction of two new Liquified Natural Gas vaporizers at the Greenpoint Energy Center under state climate law is inaccurate, and are calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to reject the expansion.

“National Grid continues to hide the harmful impacts of its projects on communities and our climate, like we see here with the proposed LNG vaporizers,” said Kim Fraczek, director of environmental organization the Sane Energy Project. “This project does not comply with our state’s climate and environmental justice law, yet National Grid persists in hedging its bets that New York State leadership and advocates are not paying attention.”

In 2019, the state set ambitious climate goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act – and mandated that state agencies, like DEC, make decisions that comply with those goals.

National Grid is seeking Air State Facility permits from DEC to to build two new Liquefied Natural Gas vaporizers at the Greenpoint site. The vaporizers are used only during peak times – the coldest days of winter – to return stored liquid gas back to its gas state and route it back to the grid to meet demand when gas heaters are turned up high. The permits would replace the facility’s existing, more restrictive Title V permits.

According to the CLCPA analysis, which was conducted by the consulting firm AKRF, who also worked on the Gowanus rezoning’s Final Environmental Impact Statement,  the expansion would not increase emissions of CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalents, and could reduce emissions. Last month’s presentation said greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 101 metric tons per year.

The analysis also cited National Grid’s ongoing efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, including replacing two older vaporizers in recent years.

But a letter from the Sane Energy Project — which was also signed by the University Network for Human Rights, Pace Environmental Law Clinic, Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, and Dr. Robert Howarth, who sits on the state Climate Action Panel – says the analysis is faulty.

The group say National Grid did not analyze the environmental impact on the surrounding community, including the nearby public housing complex Cooper Park Houses.

National Grid is being investigated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Department of Transportation for potential civil rights violations related to the construction of the Metropolitan Natural Gas Reliability Project — also known as the North Brooklyn Pipeline.

Activists say the North Brooklyn Pipeline violates the Civil Rights Act
Activists and neighbors filed a civil rights complaint against National Grid, DEC, and DPS in August. Photo by Kirstyn Brendlen

Sane Energy’s letter disputes the CLCPA’s claim that the project won’t increase the supply of gas stored at the facility, citing a report the company released last year that outlined their plans to meet demand after the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline was rejected.

“This Greenpoint LNG Vaporization project could increase supply by 60 MDth/day and be available by November 30, 2021, with a construction cost of $59M,” the report states.

National Grid released an updated report last August, which says the expansion would “leverage, but not expand, National Grid’s existing LNG storage facilities,” but also says “Our system is ready to handle the additional gas that the Vaporization Project will provide.”

Sane Energy’s rough analysis of the projects emissions were more than 78 times those reported in the CLCPA assessment, they said, and the analysis does not properly assessing “combustion-related” emissions —the impact of the gas delivered by National Grid to customers.

Additionally, the group believe the analysis should have covered the entire Greenpoint Energy Center, not just the vaporizers, since the permits will apply to the whole 115-acre facility — not just the new vaporizers.

“The emissions from the two proposed vaporizers are presented as if they were replacing some of the current emissions from existing vaporizers,” the letter says. ‘However, National Grid does not propose to remove or completely replace any of the vaporizers. Therefore, the emissions from the two additional vaporizers should be presented as additional emissions rather than as a hypothetical reduction that misleadingly implies that two of the existing vaporizers would no longer be used.”

While the CLCPA analysis says the new vaporizers would reduce the use of, but not replace, the older vaporizers, National Grid seemed to indicate that the older units would be decommissioned during a public information session held last month.

“The new units are more efficient than older units, and new units will be operated while the older units will be taken out of service first,” Chris Connelly, vice president of gas network operations at National Grid, said at the session. “So as demand declines over time, we’ll see a reduction in the need, and older units will be taken out of service first.”

National Grid spokesperson Karen Young clarified that “as demand declines over time, customers transition to alternative heating options and to meet their other energy needs, the older vaporizers would be retired first.”

A DEC representative told Brooklyn Paper that their review of the proposal is limited to the construction of the new vaporizers and the re-permitting process because the Energy Center’s nitrogen oxide emissions are currently below the federal limit, and are expected to stay below that limit.

Connelly also explained the need for the new units – state regulations mandate that National Grid is prepared to meet demand on zero-degree days, even as those extreme cold temperatures become more rare. The vaporizers were only operated for two days during the last two winters, and, in the last five years, have run at a maximum of 14 days during the winter of 2017-18.

Sane Energy say the company has failed to demonstrate the need for the new vaporizers, citing a 2020 study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis released after the NESE pipeline was squashed.

Last month, DEC denied Title V permits for two proposed fossil fuel projects — the Danskammer Generating Station and the Astoria Replacement Project. Both projects were noncompliant with CLCPA regulations and would interfere with state greenhouse gas emissions, DEC commissioner Basil Seggos said at the time, and both “failed to demonstrate the need or justification for the proposed project notwithstanding this inconsistency.”

greenpoint energy center
National Grid’s Greenpoint Energy Center at the Newtown Creek, seen from the Koscuiuszko Bridge. Google

State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents parts of Queens across the Newtown Creek from the energy center, opposes the project.

“National Grid continues to build out fossil fuel infrastructure in frontline environmental justice communities,” he said, in a release. “These vaporizers will not further our goal of more renewable energy and should be stopped.”

Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg and Bushwick and will be taking over the role of Brooklyn Borough President in January, took to Twitter to express his support for Sane Energy.

“I stand with North Brooklyn community members — this permit for fracked gas vaporizers in [North Brooklyn] should be rejected,” he said. “There are too many unanswered questions about how the proposed vaporizers would impact local residents in our environmental justice community.”

In October, DEC asked for more time to consider their decision on the permits, extending the deadline from early November to Dec. 6.

The department “subjects every application to rigorous review of all applicable federal and state standards to ensure the agency’s decision is protective of public health and the environment, upholds environmental justice and fairness, and meets applicable standards, including those related to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” a spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper.