Greenpoint’s fart factory could be built with nabe’s cleanup cash

A power company might turn Brooklyn’s farts into fuel by using money the state promised to spend cleaning up Greenpoint, a city environmental insider revealed.

Albany officials could give $2 million in grants slated for eco-friendly projects in the neighborhood to National Grid so the energy provider can build a profit-making plant that turns sewage fumes into power, a Department of Environmental Protection official told Greenpoint residents last month.

“The state was looking at the idea of using the environmental funds with the idea that it could be applied to the National Grid pipeline,” Richard Muller, the agency’s legislative affairs director, told North Brooklynites at a meeting at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

When finished, the anaerobic gas plant, dubbed “the fart factory” by The Brooklyn Paper, will collect swamp gas from sludge processed at the Newtown Creek sewage plant, clean it, and convert it into about 550 million cubic feet of utility-grade natural gas per year — enough to heat 2,500 homes.

The money set aside for environmental projects in Greenpoint comes from a $10-million payout issued to Albany by the city after settling a lawsuit in 2008 for violating a bevy of pollution laws.

So far, the state has distributed $8 million to several environmental initiatives in Greenpoint, including a proposed $3-million boathouse — but the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has not yet allocated the remaining $2 million.

If National Grid follows through with its gas-to-gas plan, the power company would pay the city $1 million annually for access to the sewage fumes.

Critics say the plan stinks, blasting government bureaucrats for shuffling money owed to the community from the city, to the state, to an energy company, and back to the city — a process they cynically call “recycling.”

“Oh hell no! You gotta be crazy!” said Greenpoint resident Laura Hofmann. “If National Grid could think that our money could be used so a city agency could get more money, that’s absurd!”

A National Grid spokeswoman would not say if the utility company is seeking the state grants, but noted that it is exploring “additional sources of funding.”

The company is close to securing a contractor for the project and will bankroll the bulk of the renewable energy endeavor itself, she said.

A spokeswoman for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority said the organization has not yet received a request from National Grid for the environmental grant.

The fart factory has had its detractors long before the state finding fiasco.

National Grid wants to put the facility on Greenpoint Avenue next to the wastewater treatment plant’s Visitor’s Center. But the city already plans to put a tree-lined park with an elegant fountain at the location — sparking opposition from critics who want a Greenpoint with more green space.

And when it comes to environmental issues in North Brooklyn, neither the city nor National Grid are particularly popular — both are considered potentially liable parties for decades of contamination in Newtown Creek, which caused federal officials to declare the toxic waterway a Superfund site.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.