Dozens of people rallied on the boardwalk last Sunday to protest what they called the Williams Pipeline, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials to halt plans to construct a natural gas pipeline from New York Harbor to New Jersey that they said would threaten the safety of coastal communities and marine life.
Environmental groups that participated said the proposed pipeline would lock New York into a “fossil fuel future,” despite Cuomo’s promises to prioritize renewable energy, and holds potential danger for communities that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Protesters said the project would increase the state’s reliance on “dirty” fuel sources while promoting hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the extraction of natural gas from the ground by injecting liquid at a high pressure.
“The science is very clear,” Eric Weltman, senior organizer of Food & Water Watch, said at the rally. “New York and the nation must move off of fossil fuels or we risk climate catastrophe, including more storms like Sandy that devastated Long Beach.”
After the rally on the boardwalk at National Boulevard, protesters marched to Kennedy Plaza chanting phrases such as, “Get up, get down, leave fossil fuels in the ground.” They made their way to City Hall, where the city hosted its third annual Earth Day celebration, featuring food vendors, environmental organizations and sustainability professionals. The event also offered an electric vehicle “Ride and Drive,” in which participants test-drove electric cars and talked to their owners about the benefits of going electric.
Representatives from Cuomo’s office and the state Department of Environmental Conservation said the DEC is currently reviewing the plans for the pipeline, known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline Project. The 26-inch-diameter pipeline was proposed by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company LLC, otherwise known as Transco, owned by the Williams Companies Inc., which officials said would transport natural gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey to about three miles off the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.
About 23 miles of pipeline, under Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay, would connect to an existing pipeline in Rockaway, officials added.
According to the Williams Companies’ website, “The Transco pipeline quietly, safely and reliably delivers natural gas through a 10,000-mile interstate transmission pipeline system extending from South Texas to New York City.”
“Gov. Cuomo, you have to say no to this pipeline,” Long Beach City Councilwoman Anissa Moore said at the rally, “because the seabed that would be dug up for this pipeline contains unsafe levels of toxic substances such as PCBs, such as arsenic, such as dioxin. We say no to this pipeline, but we say yes to renewable energy — to wind and solar power.”
Rally organizers said that Cuomo has until May 15 to reject the project, which they said would cost $1 billion, and recalled his veto of a plan to build a liquefied natural gas import facility, known as Port Ambrose, in 2015.
“[Cuomo] understands the importance of the health of this ocean,” Mike Regan, co-chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s Central Long Island chapter, said at the rally. “He understands the importance that this ocean also means to the health of our beaches, which means the health of our tourist economy here on Long Island.”
Transco, organizers said, has been involved in multiple explosions and fires around the country in the past 10 years, although DEC officials did not confirm or deny those claims.
“We don’t accept the disturbance this is going to have on our ocean’s creatures, which have somehow returned to our waters over recent years,” Regan said. “We just don’t want fracked gas landing on our shores from a new pipeline, certainly not by a company that’s got such a questionable safety record . . .”
Rally participants called on Cuomo to stick to his promise to shift the state to renewable energy. In 2016, he announced a goal to produce half of New York’s electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030.
“We also have to say no to broken promises — the lives of our children and our grandchildren are in the balance,” Moore said. “You promised. New York state said that they were committed to getting 50 percent of the electricity from renewable energy by 2030. Governor Cuomo, you have to keep your promise … and make renewable energy a reality.”
The DEC said it has not yet decided on the proposed project’s environmental permits. It held hearings in February and March to solicit input from the public. DEC representatives said the department “subjects all applications for environmental permits to an extensive and transparent review process that encourages public input at every step. DEC will continue to rigorously evaluate these applications to protect public health and the environment and to ensure all applicable standards are met.”
Last April, the DEC said it denied a “water quality certificate” to Transco because the company did not complete an application on time and the project’s environmental review was not finished. The company submitted new applications for permits shortly after. A DEC representative said the department is committed to determining whether proposed pipelines would meet environmental requirements, particularly those governing air and water quality.
Other organizations that took part in the rally included Friends of the Earth, NYPIRG, New York Communities for Change, Long Island Progressive Coalition, the Surfrider Foundation’s New York City chapters, Sane Energy Project, People’s Climate Movement NY, 350 Brooklyn, Sierra Club Long Island Group, Grassroots Environmental Education, All Our Energy and Show Up Long Island.
Weltman, of Food & Water Watch, said a handful of elected officials from Long Island and New York City have publicly opposed the project, but he called on State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran to publicly oppose it. Kaminsky and Curran did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Protesters also encouraged people to sign a petition urging Cuomo to stop the pipeline plans, and to visit the “Stop the Williams Pipeline in NY Harbor” Facebook page for more information.