Frack that! Pols stand with protesters fighting W’burg pipeline

State Senator Julia Salazar talks about stopping the gas pipeline.
Photo by Todd Maisel

A planned National Grid gas pipeline in East Williamsburg would cause outsized economic and environmental harm to communities of color, according to local activists and elected officials, who joined a protest against the seven-mile underground duct on Monday. 

“Our children will ask us where we were when the battle was fought,” said city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is running for mayor. “They will ask us what did to alter this moment in America and around the country. All of you are throwing down because we do not have much time for ourselves and our children.”

The protests against the pipeline have been continuing for months — including last week, when activists tied themselves to construction vehicles to halt work between Montrose and Manhattan Avenues on Oct. 16.

north brooklyn pipeline
A protester chains herself to the construction site on Montrose Avenue on Oct. 16.No North Brooklyn Pipeline Coalition

On Monday, the demonstrations continued with an assortment of local politicos, including Stringer, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, state Sen. Julia Salazar, and Councilman Antonio Reynoso — who blasted the plan as contributing to issues like climate change. 

“The message is clear, global warming is real,” said Velazquez, calling on attendees to vote in the election to support their agenda. “When 3,000 Puerto Ricans lost their lives, when so many from Central America are forced to leave their countries but they can’t produce any more, you see what corporate America has done in those countries. And we shouldn’t invest in any infrastructure projects that contribute to climate change.”

Protesters and elected officials marched in opposition to the planned pipeline.Photo by Todd Maisel

National Grid countered the protesters, saying that the word “pipeline” was a misnomer, and that the project — officially dubbed the Metropolitan Natural Gas Reliability Project — was designed only to supply customers in Brooklyn with uninterrupted service, rather than “to provide a new supply of gas.” 

In a statement, a company rep called the plan — which was approved by the city in 2016 — a “system integrity project” that was necessary to provide enough natural gas to its nearly two million customers in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. 

“It’s been referred to as a pipeline, but it’s called a system integrity project, not to bring additional supply, but it basically allows us to more efficiently service 1.9 million customers,” said the company’s Vice President, Karen Young. “It reinforces the system, so the analogy used is it’s like a highway — when you add a lane, it gives another way to move gas to avoid congestion.”

Protesters, however, demanded legislation to dissuade energy providers from making further investments in carbon-producing fossil fuels, and instead invest in using more renewable energy sources. 

“It is counter-intuitive to be expanding natural gas when we shouldn’t be burning fossil fuels,” said Salazar. “Solar can be part of it, but there is also geothermal, wind energy, there are other options. Instead of investing in more natural gas infrastructure like this, we can be investing in alternatives like geothermal.”

And on top of the ramifications for the climate, the activists warned that customers from Greenpoint to Brownsville would be stuck footing the bill through higher rates — as National Grid told the city in July, when they announced plans to raise a needed $236.8 million in new revenue, which would be funded by an added $16.66 on customers’ monthly utility bill

“This pipeline is not necessary to meet the needs of people who are on natural gas to heat their homes, or using natural gas — and NatGrid conceded that,” Salazar said.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.