Gov. Cuomo, stop this gas pipe­line

New York Daily News - - EDITORIAL - BY MIMI BLUESTONE Bluestone is co-leader of 350Brook­lyn, a lo­cal af­fil­i­ate of the cli­mate or­ga­ni­za­tion 350.org.

Ad­dress­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s very vis­i­ble re­treat from cli­mate lead­er­ship, and reaf­firm­ing New York’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in an al­liance of states that will strive to meet car­bon re­duc­tion tar­gets on their own, Gov. Cuomo this month said, “it is more im­por­tant than ever for states to take col­lec­tive, com­mon-sense ac­tion.”

There is a press­ing de­ci­sion that Cuomo can make all by him­self to demon­strate his com­mit­ment to com­bat­ing cli­mate change. As the sum­mer heat dies down, a fight for the city’s coast is heat­ing up.

Wil­liams, an Ok­la­homa-based gas pipe­line and pro­cess­ing com­pany with a poor safety record, wants to build an ex­pen­sive new pipe­line from New Jersey to the Rock­aways. It says this is im­por­tant to “help meet the grow­ing nat­u­ral gas de­mand in the North­east, in­clud­ing the 1.8 mil­lion cus­tomers served by Na­tional Grid in Brook­lyn, Queens, Staten Is­land and Long Is­land.”

The North­east Sup­ply En­hance­ment Pipe­line would run within a mile of Staten Is­land, then con­tinue past Brook­lyn’s beaches to link up with two ex­ist­ing pipe­lines off the Rock­away shore.

The project would re­quire more than a year of con­struc­tion, some of it around the clock, which could en­dan­ger beach­go­ers and ma­rine life by churn­ing up ar­senic, lead, DDT, diox­ins and harm­ful PCBs.

And the end re­sult would be a new path­way for fracked gas — fuel that New York­ers don’t even need, and that would worsen cli­mate change.

This is ex­actly the wrong di­rec­tion to head in if we re­ally want to shift to­ward re­new­able en­ergy sources such as wind, so­lar and geo­ther­mal, which is the di­rec­tion pub­lic pol­icy and the mar­ket are re­ally mov­ing.

New York City has pledged to cut green­house gas emis­sions 80% by 2050 (com­pared with 2005) by retrofitting build­ings for greater en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, switch­ing to elec­tric ve­hi­cles and us­ing more re­new­able en­ergy. New York State says that 50% of the state’s elec­tric­ity will come from re­new­able sources by 2030 — just 13 years from now.

As fos­sil fu­els go, fracked gas has some par­tic­u­larly bad qual­i­ties. It’s es­sen­tially meth­ane, a green­house gas that cap­tures 84 times as much heat as car­bon diox­ide in the ini­tial 20 years af­ter its emit­ted.

And from an eco­nomic per­spec­tive, this pipe­line is un­nec­es­sary. Even if all of the city’s boil­ers cur­rently burn­ing oil made the switch to gas, de­mand for gas would rise only 6%, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pre­pared for the Mayor’s Of­fice of Long-Term Plan­ning and Sus­tain­abil­ity.

Mean­time, the New York re­gion is rapidly build­ing out more so­lar and wind ca­pac­ity, as ad­vances in bat­tery stor­age are mak­ing re­new­ables even more at­trac­tive.

Wil­liams says the pro­posed project would cost $926 mil­lion to build. You can bet Na­tional Grid’s gas cus­tomers in Brook­lyn, Queens and Staten Is­land will wind up foot­ing most of that bill through higher rates, which will rise even higher if gas de­mand were to fall short, as seems likely.

But ul­ti­mately, the case against a new pipe­line comes back to cli­mate change. We re­mem­ber all too keenly the dam­age from Su­per­storm Sandy. It’s taken years, but now you can stroll on newly for­ti­fied board­walks past re­built homes and grab a hot dog af­ter a swim.

This pipe­line will threaten that uniquely New York com­bi­na­tion of city and shore, be­cause even if the gas never leaks, burn­ing it will worsen cli­mate change. That will make storms more fre­quent, more deadly and more costly.

The Fed­eral En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion holds most of the cards when it comes to de­cid­ing whether this new pipe­line gets built. FERC has rarely met a pipe­line it didn’t love. But New York State also has some cards it could play.

Wil­liams can’t build un­less the state’s De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion is­sues a wa­ter qual­ity cer­tifi­cate and a pro­tec­tion of nav­i­ga­ble wa­ters per­mit. Wil­liams would also need an ease­ment for use of un­der­wa­ter land from the state’s Of­fice of Gen­eral Ser­vices.

In other words, Cuomo can stop this pipe­line. Hav­ing just an­nounced a re­dou­bled com­mit­ment to cli­mate ac­tion and the Paris ac­cord’s goals, this is his per­fect op­por­tu­nity to lead.

New York­ers who en­joy a swim at our beaches and who hope for a more liv­able planet should will let the gover­nor know we are count­ing on him to do the right thing.

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