After the House of Representatives passed a bill last week approving the construction of a three-mile gas pipeline, running underneath Jamaica Bay through Brooklyn and Queens, environmentalists and local leaders are outraged, claiming they were kept in the dark about it.
“It was done behind the public’s back,” said Ida Sanoff, Chairperson of the Natural Resources Protective Association.
What Is The Pipeline, Where Will It Be, And Why Is It Important?
The construction efforts for the Gateway Pipeline project are part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2007 PlaNYC initiative, which sets out, among other goals, to create cleaner energy for the future of the city.
The new natural gas artery would connect to a natural gas pipeline in the Atlantic Ocean that runs from the Gulf Coast to New York. It would run undereath Gateway Recreation Area in Jamaica Bay with a metering station at Floyd Bennett Field, before going further into Brooklyn.
Since the plan requires tunneling underneath federal property, it needs federal approval. Sponsored by Congressman Michael Grimm, the New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act gives the House’s required stamp or approval. It will now move to the Senate.
Grimm claims that the project will be beneficial to the economy, as it will generate about $265 million in construction activity, which will lead to almost 300 local jobs. The city is also touting its environmental benefits, since natural gas is domestically produced, cheaper and cleaner than alternatives.
So What’s The Problem?
The proponents might be pushing the benefits, but environmentalists fear it could be detrimental to the park’s habitat.
It’s not quite clear whether or not the project poses a risk to the environment or not. On the one hand, the plan states that the pipeline will be buried so deeply underneath the ground that it won’t disturb the habitat.
“Where the pipe will be laid out in the ocean will require that it be ‘trenched’ into the ocean floor,” explained Daniel Mundy, Sr., president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers. Mundy said that the bottom of Jamaica Bay should not be adversely affected, as the pipe will be placed using horizontal drilling.
“It will be ‘tunneled’ under the bay bottom and therefore not require that the bay bottom, which is important habitat, be destroyed,” he said.
However, the government agencies involved in the planning have not been transparent in their efforts, and key stakeholders said they’re lacking the information they need to contribute thoughtful input.
That, the activists say, has ensured that the government can move forward without the plan being subjected to scrutiny or criticism.
Activists Demand A Say
When NY1 reported on Grimm’s bill earlier this month, they noted that the project received little opposition compared to other pipeline projects in the works. But leaders explained that the project didn’t receive negative criticism because the elected officials didn’t give them a chance to discuss the plan.
“Of course there was no criticism, nobody knew about it!” said Sanoff, angered that the elected officials and the National Parks Service failed to inform the public. “They didn’t want any criticism … And you don’t get any criticism, if nobody knows what’s going on.”
Sanoff said that it is “horrible that this was done behind everybody’s back,” and both Sanoff and Mundy are concerned about future projects quietly slipping past the public and into the House of Representatives.
“There was no ability on the part of the National Parks Service to bring environmental groups and stakeholders up to speed on this. No public announcement or public comment period or meetings,” said Mundy.
“This is especially troubling as it makes one concerned of other plans that may be developed in the future for the lands or waters of our national park and whether the public will have a say.”
The congressmembers Bob Turner and Michael Grimm did not respond to comment and a spokesperson for the National Parks Service refused to comment “until everything passes complete legislature.”
“The government agencies want the public to trust them. They always say that they are working with the public ‘We want you to trust us and trust our judgment.’ But this does not encourage trust and it does not encourage cooperation and if anything, it encourages an adversarial relationship,” said Sanoff.
Senator Charles Schumer is currently reviewing the bill.
If the project receives federal approval without concerning the public then stakeholders will be outraged.
“If they think that this is the way that they can deal with the public down here then they are in for a big surprise … they better think twice,” said Sanoff.