US Senator Chuck Schumer made his opposition to the North Brooklyn Pipeline loud and clear on August 6 with a unified crowd of environmentalists lined behind him.
After shaking hands and engaging with everyone in attendance at the No North Brooklyn Pipeline Coalition event, Schumer gathered with fellow political figures including NYS Senator Julia Salazar and Lincoln Restler, NYC Council District 33 primary winner, as well as activist groups such as Sane Energy Project and El Puente near—National Grid’s depot. Together, they denounced National Grid’s plan to raise New Yorkers’ gas rates to pay for the construction of a seven-mile pipeline that will release harmful substances like methane gas into the air.
“This pipeline will undermine New York’s climate goals while pumping carbon-based fuel through communities that already face high pollution,” Schumer said. “We have to support clean energy projects that build up our communities, not old methods that set us back.”
One of the main concerns with the NBK pipeline’s damaging environmental impacts is that it is planned to be built through neighborhoods with large populations of Black and Latino residents, including Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville. Schumer and other speakers at the press event made a point to call out New York City’s history of targeting low-income communities of color when it comes to infrastructure that causes health issues.
Among those who spoke about the environmental racism of the plan include NYS Senator Julia Salazar, representatives of Sane Energy, and Gabriel Jamison, a head organizer of the Brownsville Residents Green Committee.
“The fight for environmental justice cannot be successful without racial justice,” Jamison said. “As a Brownsville resident, I ask everyone today to listen, use their voice to advocate for the voiceless, and call upon the city to invest in sustainable L.O.V.E— Legacy, Ownership, Vocation, and Education — and transformative healing for my community.”
The campaign to stop National Grid from endangering these vulnerable communities with fracked gas has been active since late 2019 and has only gotten stronger with time. In March 2021, North Brooklyn residents near to the gas storage depot officially filed a lawsuit against National Grid and the state on the grounds that permitting the facility is illegal. In July 2021, Cooper Park Resident Council and Sane Energy Project announced that they filed a similar lawsuit to halt illegal construction at the facility.
Member of Sane Energy Project, Anna Tsomo-Leidecker said that the projects have been presented is through what is called illegal segmentation, meaning that National Grid is stating that the pipeline is unrelated to the LNG expansion.
In late July, the New York State Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order halting the construction, blocking Phase 5 of the pipeline and parts of the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) expansion from moving forward for the time being.
Elisha Fye, vice president of the Cooper Park Resident Council, called the decision “great news” in the recent press release, but knowing National Grid has not given up on those projects, he said the community “will not be able to heal or rest” until the project has officially stopped.
As for the latest news, in mid-August, New York State’s Public Service Commission voted to approve a rate hike that will leave almost 2 million National Grid customers paying more every month to cover the first four phases of pipeline construction.
“The PSC vote on August 12 was a failure to protect communities from climate disaster and public safety concerns,” said Tsomo-Leidecker. “It is another example of Cuomo-appointed commissioners putting the processes of fossil fuel corporations over the health and safety of people in NYC and the climate crisis. It just goes to show that the power is in the hands of the people and if we want change, we have to do it ourselves.”
Weeks before the rate hike announcement at US Senator Schumer’s press event, several activists emphasized that they will not pay to be poisoned. There is currently a gas bill strike in progress with hundreds already signed up. If you pay a National Grid gas bill, you can join at nonbkpipeline.org/strike.
“When I join communities like this, we don’t always win, but we very often win, and we’re going to win,” Schumer said before pumping his fist in the air. “Keep fighting!”