The proposed placement of new natural gas pipelines from Williams and National Grid. (Source: Williams)

A pair of public workshops being held this week will give stakeholders an opportunity to voice their concerns about a natural gas pipeline proposed to run underneath Jamaica Bay, after locals complained they were being shut out of the process.

Pipeline public workshop announcement flier (Click to enlarge)

The first meeting will take place Tuesday, April 24, at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus in Rockaway Beach (333 Beach 90 Street). The second meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Sports & Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field (Hangar 5 Mezzanine).

Representatives from Williams, the company that operates the Transco pipeline and delivers natural gas to local suppliers from the Gulf of Mexico to New York, and National Grid will explain details of the Transco Rockaway Lateral Project, as the proposal is formally known, and hear out residents’ concerns.

The companies have already mobilized in the face of criticism that it was shutting locals out of the project, which will see a natural gas pipeline installed from a primary conduit in the Atlantic underneath the Rockaways, through Jamaica Bay and Floyd Bennett Field and up Flatbush Avenue.

According to Williams, the claims that locals are being shut out of the process are premature, and they’ve begun reaching out to local civics and environmental watchdogs in the area.

“The common thread [in criticism from local groups] is this perception that we did this under the radar and it’s a done deal,” said Williams spokesperson Chris Stockton. “The fact of the matter is, we haven’t even filed our application yet with [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission].”

Sparking the complaint was the U.S. House of Representatives swift passage of the New York City Natural Gas Supply and Enhancement Act in February. The legislation, sponsored by Congressman Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), authorizes the Secretary of Interior to approve work to be done in Gateway National Recreation Area, part of the National Parks system. The bill has not yet been passed by the Senate.

Even still, Stockton said, the bill only gives the Secretary of Interior the ability to approve the project if he chooses, and is only the first step in laying the groundwork for a multi-year process.

“That was all preliminary work that was happening to know if [installation in Jamaica Bay] was even an option for us,” Stockton said. “I think people were seeing the movement over in the [House] and thinking that was approval over the whole project.”

Williams will still need to assess the environmental impacts of the project, as well as demonstrate to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that they’ve coordinated with government and civic stakeholders – part of which includes this week’s workshops. They hope to file their FERC application by the end of the year and begin construction in spring or summer of 2014, finishing it by the end of the year.

One of the groups Williams has contacted, though, said that outreach should have started before the House vote.

“The greatest protection Jamaica Bay has is that it’s protected by the original 1972 legislation creating the park,” said Dan Mundy, president of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers. He noted that no legislation he knows of has ever permitted work of this scale to be done in Gateway National Park, and that it creates a slippery slope for the National Parks Service.

As part of the legislation, National Grid will be permitted to use a Floyd Bennett Field hangar as a metering station, paying fees to the park. Mundy fears a similar rationale – and under-the-radar tactics – could be used to approve other revenue generating projects like the expansion of John F. Kennedy Airport.

“Let’s have that discussion first, not open up Sheepshead Bites or Daily News and say, ‘Hey, the House passed a resolution allowing them to open!’”

He also noted that the National Grid portion of the project – which will lay new infrastructure beneath Floyd Bennett Field and up Flatbush Avenue to connect to its existing delivery lines – will not need FERC approval to move forward. National Grid did not respond with comment by deadline.

That said, Mundy adds that he sees the benefits of the Williams project, including that all of the work from the Atlantic side of the Rockaways all the way to the Floyd Bennett Field hangar will use lateral drilling techniques - meaning they will not upset the park or the sea floor, nor the homes and roads in the Rockways.

But questions still linger about a two-mile section of work being down further out in the Atlantic where the new pipeline will connect with the existing Transco artery. That work will involve digging a large trench in the ground, upsetting the ocean floor and sensitive habitats around it.

Stockton said they’re studying the route thoroughly to ensure minimal destruction of the sea floor.

“There are impacts there but those impacts are temporary,” Stockton said. “We’re putting a line in the ground, but it will be buried. We’ve done a lot of survey work to find where are those areas that are sensitive. We’ve mapped it out to go around those areas. From a design perspective, those are considered temporary impacts.”

Mundy notes, though, that gauging environmental impacts is an imperfect science, and locals know the risks better than anyone. In this project, he’s particularly worried about damage to the artificial reef that’s wedged between the Rockaways and the existing pipeline. The reef is a thriving habitat, and nearby dredging could cover it in life-smothering muck.

Mundy, though, said he will be at this week’s meetings with an open mind, and is pushing for funding of environmental mitigation projects as part of any government agreement with Williams and National Grid.

“We’ll be watching this process closely and we’re going to withhold judgement until Williams has said everything they have to say,” Mundy said. “But I dont think you should be a multimillion dollar gas corporation and you’re going to make millions and millions of dollars, and you’re going to rip up the floor – I think you need to give back something.”

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  • brooklyn native

    4/25/12  7:35 pm

    On the telephone with Sen. Marty Golden doing a ‘Telephone Town Hall Meeting’ and just asked him about his particular project… and he’s all for it as he feels that ‘it’s necessary’ and the environment will survive, and that this is the same situation as in Bensonhurst.  I was immediately cut off. While I’m not surprised that I was cut off, I was however surprised at his immediate comment and his knowledge that ‘the paper has been done’ and his approval of it.Seems that there is so much more to this then even last night’s meeting has shown.It’s really a sad situation that Jamaica Bay gets such short shrift by it’s own Senator.Clearly it’s going to be up to the people who care to try and make a difference.

    • http://twitter.com/mikeyhorse Mike

      Perhaps he does not want to argue with people that have nothing to say about how to satisfy our energy needs other than too complain. Maybe your different. What is your plan?

      • brooklyn native

        I wasn’t looking for an argument, I was trying to find out what my state representative is doing to protect the environment of his own district. ‘WE’ (the people) vote these people into office – if they do not have my districts best interest, then I want to know.  
        My personal choice would be to find a company that would invest in off shore wind turbines – something that would serve the people and have the lest amount of impact on the ecosystem.  There are hundreds of apartment buildings in Brooklyn, solar panels for all.  There are cell towers, why not solar?
        So, those are my choices (since you asked).  And you?

        • http://twitter.com/mikeyhorse Mike

          We have the natural gas. Let’s use it.  I do not believe that solar panels and wind farms, at this point, come close to being viable. You do know, that there are natural gas pipelines all over the place now? People want their big houses, they want their electronic appliances and gizmos.  At this point NG is the most reliable and cost effective.

          • Brooklyn Native

            I wish this was only about what we each believe. It isn’t. Short term solutions are no solutions at all. 
            People can have their big homes, and while they’re designing them, they could potentially work in solar panels. It makes sense for the ecology, but even for what every one’s bottom line really is – money. Solar energy pays for it self. 
            We live on the ocean, use it for another resource. Wind. 

            Would you rather keep ruining your planet or take the time to find a viable, cost effective solution to a very real and serious problem? 
            Jamaica Bay is a very fragile ecosystem that already had to recover from a deep dredging many years ago. It’s barely back. Now to rip it up again? 
            That’s not right.

  • Concerned in Brooklyn

    I am very concerned about the proposed pipeline.  Hard to believe it’s almost a done deal and no one did an environmental impact statement first.  Anyone consider the dangers of a gas leak, not only to wild life, but to people who live nearby?  If this is such a great idea, why not run it near Manhattan?

  • Concerned in Brooklyn

    If Michael Grimm likes this so much, why not put the pipe and monitoring station on Staten Island, near HIS home?

    • http://twitter.com/mikeyhorse Mike

      I would not be at all surprised if new pipelines are being considered on SI and Manhattan.

      How do you think you get your gas now?  

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