Gas company National Grid is the primary sponsor of the environmental-awareness campaign “Climate Week NYC” — but that didn’t sit well with local activists, who stormed the energy company’s Downtown Brooklyn headquarters on the event’s first day.
“The fact that National Grid is the headline partner of Climate Week NYC reveals a very disturbing reality for humanity and our planet,” said Jen Chantrtanapichate, an organizer with Frack Outta Brooklyn. “Our reality is that ‘climate orgs’ like Climate Week NYC is uplifting corporate gas utility colonizers like National Grid in their showcasing of ‘leading climate action’ while they build a new fracked gas pipeline through poor, working class, BIPOC communities in North Brooklyn. National Grid is environmentally racist.”
As Climate Week NYC, an annual week-long event hosted by the non-profit Climate Group, kicked off virtually with speakers including Gov. Kathy Hochul and Badar Khan, the president of National Grid US, protesters were swarming the company’s MetroTech Center lobby for the second time in a year.
“This ‘climate action leader’ continues to lock in our public dependency on fossil fuels as climate catastrophes become commonplace,” Chantrtanapichate said. “Shame on Climate Week NYC for not doing their research and for clearly prioritizing money and partners over real climate justice for NYC.”
The protest came days after 33 local lawmakers, including US Rep. Carolyn Maloney and assemblymembers Jo Anne Simon and Emily Gallagher signed on to a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, asking her to review last month’s decision by the state Public Service Commission to approve a three-year rate hike requested by National Grid.
“In their order, the PSC correctly acknowledged that New York’s groundbreaking climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) applies to rate cases, but then shockingly said that National Grid’s gas sales growth plan and rate hike complies with the CLCPA despite having performed no greenhouse gas emissions accounting,” the letter says.
“Please uphold our state climate law, which was fought for and won by frontline communities, and conduct a swift and thorough review of the PSC August 12 order in the downstate National Grid rate case.”
A spokesperson for Hochul told Brooklyn Paper that the governor’s office is “committed to taking bold action to address climate change head-on,” and their office will review the letter.
National Grid has been at the center of climate protests in Brooklyn for more than a year as they’ve constructed the Metropolitan Natural Gas Reliability Project, also known as the North Brooklyn Pipeline, and were forced to stop construction at their Greenpoint facility that would have allowed them to truck in liquified natural gas.
Last month, neighbors and activists filed a federal civil complaint alleging that the company had violated part of the Civil Rights Act as they built the pipeline, claiming it would disproportionately impact predominantly-minority neighborhoods.
Hosted since 2011 during the same week as the United Nations General Assembly, Climate Week NYC says their 2021 event has a “focus on fulfilling and increasing commitments made by businesses, governments, and organizations. It is the time and place where the world gathers to showcase leading climate action and discuss how to do more, fast.”
Sponsors for the event include McKinsey Sustainability and international consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, while Con Edison and the Mayor’s Office for Climate and Sustainability are listed as partners.
“Organizations are assessed before we accept them as sponsors of Climate Week NYC,” a representative from the Climate Group told Brooklyn Paper. “We work with organizations that are making meaningful commitments to tackling climate emissions and enabling positive change.”
The representative said National Grid has “has made significant commitments and is taking action in a number of areas,” but that no company is “currently doing enough,” and that the event is focused not only on successes but on pushing companies and governments to do more.
“It’s infuriating, because we know that National Grid is actually causing the climate crisis right now,” said Lee Ziesche, a community engagement coordinator with the Sane Energy Project. “The whole theme of the opening ceremony today and one that is emphasized a lot on the Climate Group website is all about a just transition and environmental justice. And you really can’t get a worse actor than what National Grid just did in 2020.”
Both city and state officials have “facilitated National Grid in their greenwashing,” Ziesche said, failing to make real plans to make the city more sustainable while allowing continued construction of fossil fuel infrastructure.
National Grid spokesperson Karen Young said the company’s partnership with Climate Week NYC and with COP26, the United Nations climate change conference, “help us more deeply engage in these conversations and demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment to achieving net zero without leaving any customer, neighborhood or community behind.”
“We remain ready to have constructive multilateral conversations, particularly with the groups who do not share our views. Everyone should have a voice in improving our collective energy future.”
No National Grid representatives engaged with protestors on Tuesday, Ziesche said, and the group took the protest outside when police arrived.
“Fracked gas in other states has contaminated the air and water. The fumes are toxic and can cause cancer and asthma,” said Pati Rodriguez, an organizer with Mi Casa Resiste and Frack Outta Brooklyn, at the protest. “And it is clear from the map of this project, this pipeline has been placed in Black and brown, working-class neighborhoods.”
“We hope that everyone here today, and everyone looking at National Grid’s charade of claiming they are some kind of climate justice supporter, please call them out. We all need to call them out.”