Natural Gas Pipeline Met With Skepticism
By NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
President Barack Obama approved legislation last week that would install a new natural gas pipeline through Queens and Brooklyn.
The three-mile pipeline will run beneath Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways and under Jamaica Bay to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, intended to bring in more natural gas to serve the City’s growing demand.
Introduced by U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Brooklyn) in conjunction with U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village), officials claim that the New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act (H.R. 2606) will be helpful to New York’s economy by creating 300 construction jobs and $265 million in construction activity. Others, however, are concerned with issues building the pipelines, citing the project may pose safety problems.
One of the most active groups against the pipeline, the Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline, has collected more than 5,000 signatures in an effort to stop the legislation. Although their lobbying proved unsuccessful, the group still feels the pipeline could be particularly dangerous, especially in the event of another storm like Sandy.
“Given the fact that the Rockaways are in the eye of any future major storm, we have concerns about the metering and regulating station that would be placed in Floyd Bennett Field. Floyd Bennett Field is 16 feet above sea level and the storm serge at its height during Hurricane Sandy was 14 feet,” said Martha Cameron, a supervisor at CARP. “In the event of another storm, there is a high possibility that the regulating station could be flooded. If a metering station is flooded, it really increases the chance of a major explosion.”
Cameron went on to argue that even without a storm, the natural gas pipeline, which will be built by Williams Companies, presents other dangers which include pollution from leaking and even water contamination.
“From what we’ve determined, it’s only going to be a few feet under the seabed. The concern here is that pipelines often leak and often rupture,” she said. “Leaks are fairly common. This would be a new pipeline, so we wouldn’t expect it to leak immediately, but its going to be in the ocean and no matter what precautions they are taking, undersea pipelines get corroded.”
Additionally, Cameron and members of CARP protest the location of new pipeline, asserting the areas are sensitive.
“It is right beside the east coast’s largest community garden. It is in an area that is a camp ground. It is an area that is used by school children for sports. It is an area that is used by veterans rebuilding airplanes,” she said. “It’s an insane location,” she added. “The pipeline itself is going to run right through Jamaica Bay, right through the marine parkway.” By building a pipeline under Jamaica Bay, Cameron argues, it endangers the species in it.
The new legislation is also met with some skepticism from local politicians like Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica), who said he recognizes the economic potential but echoes many of the sentiments as CARP.
“The opportunity for clean energy is certainly helpful and the economic development and jobs would be helpful but my main concern would be to ensure it doesn’t do any environmental damage,” Scarborough said. “These are very ecologically fragile areas. I would want to see to all of the environmental reviews to make sure there is no damage in that regard. If those concerns can be satisfied, I think it could be beneficial.”
In the wake of the project’s skepticism, a spokesperson for Grimm, Carol Danko, attempted to assure residents that the pipeline will be built safely.
“What I can say is that we specifically have put into the bill that the plan would avoid any residential, commercial or environmentally sensitive areas,” Danko said. “The bill has overwhelming support from Mayor Bloomberg and the Parks Department.”
Meeks, who sponsored the legislation with Grimm, asserted the new pipeline does not pose any danger to the constituents in his district or the environment. Instead, he argued the pipeline was a step in the right direction for clean environement.
“It helps clean the air as opposed to the more polluting heating oil,” he said. “There’s a pipeline in the Atlantic Ocean already so we haven’t had that problem with existing pipelines. Before the bill was voted on, there were a number of environmental groups that we have had conversations with and they had some preliminary objections, after they did their own review, they withdrew their objections to the bill. The fact is it helps improve the environment because it keeps the air clean.”
The current pipeline system serving the Queens and Brooklyn portion of New York City was built decades ago. The new pipeline will be built off the existing Williams pipeline that currently brings natural gas from New Jersey to Long Island.
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or nkozikowska@ queenspress.com.