The Oklahoma energy company Williams has proposed laying a new pipeline, called the Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline, which would carry fracked gas (methane) from Pennsylvania across the Lower Bay of New York’s harbor.
Why is this pipeline a bad idea?
This underwater part of this pipeline would be laid for 23 miles along the south coast of Staten Island, past Coney Island, and ending 4 miles south of the Rockaways. Construction would require excavating a trench across the entirety of the route to bury the pipeline.
What have we done to get this pipeline stopped?
In 2017 we joined with wonderful allies—Food & Water Watch, Sane Energy New York Communities for Change, and the NYC chapter of Surfrider—to form the Stop the Williams Pipeline Coalition. (link to website here: stopthewilliamspipeline.org.) Over the past two years we’ve been joined by other organizations: 350.org, Rockaway Beach Civic Association, Sustainable Staten Island, Ocean Action Research Rockaway, United for Action, and others. Another coalition of groups is vigorously working against this pipeline in New Jersey.
Together we raised awareness of this proposed pipeline by presenting community forums, handing out flyers at farmers markets and other venues, speaking at community boards, and knocking on doors. Over 14,000 New Yorkers signed a petition against the pipeline and over 200 environmental, civic, justice, and faith organizations signed a letter of opposition. We talked to elected officials, and over 60 or them, including NYC Comptroller Scott Singer and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, came out against the pipeline. We wrote op eds, letters to the editor, and spoke to reporters. Our opposition with our reasons for it has been covered in the Guardian, Politico, Indypendent, Jacobin, Queens Chronicle, Rockaway Wave, Rockaway Times, Grist, Sludge, Earther, Patch.com, and amNY and on CBS News 88, NY 1, BRIC TV, Democracy Now, and WBAI.
We got some great support from reports that highlighted specific issues:
How can the pipeline be stopped?
Two agencies can determine whether or not this pipeline can go forward. One is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We submitted thousands of comments to FERC and many of us testified eloquently against the project at a public hearing in Brooklyn in April 2018. Nonetheless, FERC, generally a rubber-stamp agency for pipeline companies, issued a permit for the Williams NESE pipeline to go forward in May, 2019.
Such a project, however, also requires an array of local permits from New York State, the most significant of which is a Water Quality Certificate issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation. In February and March, 2019, many of us testified at DEC hearings in Brooklyn and Queens, and many more submitted thousands of comments. On May 15 the DEC denied Williams a WQC but with the proviso that Williams could revise its application to address DEC concerns and reapply. Williams did so on May 29 and the DEC opened another comment period, which ended on July 13. We are now waiting for the DEC’s decision in response to Williams’ revised application.
At the same time that we addressed the certifying agencies, we have worked to demonstrate to Governor Cuomo how extensive and powerful the opposition to this proposed fracked gas pipeline is. We have made hundreds of phone calls to his office. We’ve held rallies in front of his New York City office and held up signs and chanted outside his various local appearances. In November 2018 we delivered the letter with the list of organizations opposing the pipeline to his office. In February 2017 we went directly to Albany to deliver the over 14,000 petition signatures. As chief executive of the state, Governor Cuomo appoints the heads of agencies like the DEC and can influence their decisions.
So now what?
Let’s work together to stop this pipeline!
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Want more details about the pipeline? Read the fact sheets at stopthewilliamspipeline.org