A potential disaster flows under the streets of Queens, alarming some community members into action.
Thousands of miles of combustible pipelines transporting oil, natural gas and hazardous liquids courses beneath the streets and homes of the city – leading to a call for legislation to tighten oversight and safety guidelines when construction requires digging and drilling.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined local residents on February 15 to address concerns about pipeline safety and call for action against negligence that undermines the security of the entire city.
Van Bramer cited three national incidents concerning pipeline explosions in the past month that proved tragic and deadly. Explosions in Philadelphia, Hanoverton and, most recently Allentown, PA raised the concerns of lawmakers.
In light of these incidents, U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Frank Lautenberg introduced federal legislation that would tighten pipeline safety requirements – but Van Bramer believes such legislation is sorely needed on a local level.
In 2009, a construction project on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside punctured the Buckeye Pipeline, causing over 500 gallons of jet fuel to spew onto streets.
“The preventative and safety measures mandated by this proposed legislation and resolution will help protect our neighborhoods from catastrophe,” said Van Bramer. “This is the time to step up and speak out before a disaster like Allentown happens in our city. We must take action to reduce the risk of tragedy now – rather than react to one after it is too late.”
The councilmember announced legislation requiring oversight and advance notice for any entity drilling near flammable materials in residential areas. In addition to oversight, Van Bramer is working with Assemblymember Cathy Nolan on increasing fines for negligent companies that do not call 8-1-1 – the state’s mandatory Dig Safely hotline.
Van Bramer cited numerous construction projects that will be coming through western Queens in the coming months – including a capital works projects adjacent to Lou Lodati Playground on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside. According to the councilmember, any degree of neglect can prove deadly for Queens residents.
Nolan said that they have met with the agencies that oversee the pipeline and plan to further review safety regulations of these agencies.
“When we met with the agencies that oversee the pipeline, we were concerned about safety,” she said. “With the pipeline running under most of our community in western Queens, it is important that there are ongoing reviews of the regulations to make sure that the residents are kept safe. I will also be introducing legislation at the state level, to ratify and enhance the proposal that Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer has introduced.”