As New York City plans to ban gas connections to buildings, fight against North Brooklyn pipeline continues: Bushwick Daily



This week, the New York City Council is expected to pass a bill banning gas hook-ups in new buildings, a big step towards electrifying New York City.

Twenty-nine of 51 city council members sponsored the bill, which would effectively eliminate all gas stoves, gas ovens, and gas water heaters in New York City’s new buildings. The law would come into effect for buildings with less than seven stories at the end of 2023 and would apply to taller buildings from mid-2027.

“I think our city is really in a leadership role here. If we can pass this bill to electrify buildings at the New York City government level, it will demonstrate to the state and the country as a whole that this is absolutely achievable, ”said Emily Gallagher, Assembly member, representing Assembly District 50, on the bill.

When asked if the plan was realistic and if the city had a sufficient energy supply to support it, Ben Furnas, director of the mayor’s office for climate and sustainability, said: “We have a very high level of confidence that this type of transition to electricity heating, to types of deep reductions in carbon emissions, are possible.

At the state level, Senate Bill S6843A, the “All-Electric Building Law,” would require new buildings to be fully electric from 2024. The bill was introduced in May by the Senator of State Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat representing the 26th Senate District. Currently, the bill is under consideration by the Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development and has not yet been put to a vote.

The state, however, is not currently producing enough electricity for its demand, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Additional supplies are brought in from other states and Canada. And yet, New York State uses less electricity per capita than most other states. This means that if electricity consumption is to increase, more electricity will have to be produced in the state or brought in from elsewhere. A positive sign, however, is that by 2020, for the first time, more electricity in New York State was produced from renewable resources than from nuclear power plants.

Meanwhile, the fight against the North Brooklyn Pipeline, which carries natural gas through neighborhoods in Brooklyn, continues. It is difficult to analyze how the city will arrive at its plan to move towards greener energy sources while the non-renewable energy infrastructure is still being built.

For years, residents and activists of Bushwick have opposed a pipeline that National Grid has built in the neighborhood. Colloquially known as the North Brooklyn Pipeline, its construction is in direct opposition to the city’s progress to move away from natural gas and switch to renewables.

Three in five homes in New York state use natural gas for heating, and natural gas bills are forecast to increase 21% this winter from last year, according to the Department of Utilities.

Yet in recent years, significant progress has been made in moving away from fracking gas. Following a 2014 study that found air and water quality to be affected in fracking gas extraction areas, fracking was banned in the state by governor decree . This ban was made more permanent last year, when it was codified in the 2021 state budget.

This is especially important because New York is one of many states in the Marcellus Shale, an area rich in natural gas. The area, which also covers parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky, is estimated to be the largest natural gas reserve in the United States.

Lee Ziesche, who works on the Sane Energy Project and is the organizer of No North Brooklyn Pipeline, explained in a phone interview that it’s a challenge to let neighbors know what’s going on. “People don’t really understand how our energy system works – that there are literally pipelines everywhere, bringing in pretty much dangerous fossil fuel… You can follow your pipe that connects to your building to a bigger pipe. , at a bigger pipe this leads to a frack well.

“Pipeline,” however, seems to be a word with a recognizable negative connotation. Lee explained that when she shared fliers and contacted her neighbors, “a lot of people stop and talk to you because yes they understand that pipeline is bad, but they don’t understand that this is how they get gas home and that the fight is really much, much bigger than the North Brooklyn pipeline.

Last month, volunteers and organizers gathered at Kávé, a Bushwick café, to write letters to neighbors, informing them of the pipeline that National Grid is building under their homes and businesses.

Activists, volunteers and organizers of Kávé, a café in Bushwick, writing notes to neighbors.

Kim Fraczek, an organizer for the group, who works at the Sane Energy Project, explained that National Grid passed the cost of the pipeline project on to residents. That’s why No North Brooklyn Pipeline staged a strike asking neighbors to withhold $ 66 from their heating bills. This amount represents what each of them is charged for the project. To date, Kim notes that 500 people have signed the strike. It’s a small fraction of the total population affected by the rising costs, which it estimates at 1.9 million people across the city, since the tariff hike began over a year ago. .

Basically, the natural gas that is consumed in New York comes from Pennsylvania, but fracking gas doesn’t just affect the areas where it is mined. It also has a direct impact on those who use it at home or live nearby.

“Asthma is really a huge problem in Brownsville and Greenpoint because it reserves the upper and lower pipeline locations,” said Anna Tsomo, organizer of No North Brooklyn Pipeline who also works at the Sane Energy Project. She was first alerted that she and her family lived near the pipeline because of a flyer distributed by No North Brooklyn Pipeline. She got involved in organizing the group because she was concerned about how the pipeline was contributing to climate change, but also out of concern for the health of her family and neighbors.

There are currently two civil rights investigations open regarding the pipeline. As first reported by The City on November 19, the US Department of Transportation has agreed to investigate whether the New York State Department of the Civil Service has “discriminated on the basis of race ”when he approved the proposed pipeline“ without analyzing the pipeline’s disparate adverse impact on African-American and Latin American New Yorkers. Among other neighborhoods, the pipeline crosses Brownsville, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, predominantly Latin American or black neighborhoods.

The DOT investigation is the second of its kind. According to a separate letter, also first obtained by The City, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the actions of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

While most of the pipeline has already been built, campaigners are now focused on tackling a permit National Grid has requested to install two new vaporizers at its Greenpoint plant. Vaporizers liquefy natural gas by cooling it, reducing its volume, and allowing the business to store it. They can then put it back into the pipeline when demand for gas increases and it is needed.

In a May 2020 report, National Grid described the $ 59 million vaporizer project as a possible solution to closing an estimated gap in gas demand and supply for the future. According to No North Brooklyn Pipeline, vaporizers increase greenhouse gas emissions as well as local air pollution. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was due to issue its permit decision on December 6, but has postponed it until February 7, 2022.

No North Brooklyn Pipeline has no upcoming events listed on its website at the moment, but the group is asking neighbors to spread the word by pledging to distribute flyers and join the strike of the gas bill.


Ariana Perez-Castells is a journalist studying in the Bilingual Journalism Program at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.


Featured Image: Activists, volunteers and organizers of Kávé, a cafe in Bushwick, writing notes to neighbors.

All pictures: Ariana Perez-Castells.

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