New York State regulators denies application for $1 billion Williams Pipeline project off Rockaway Beach

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Courtesy of Stop the Williams Pipeline Coalition

New York State rejected the application for the controversial Williams Pipeline, also known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, the $1 billion pipeline that would have transported fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania under New York Harbor terminating just over three miles off Rockaway Beach.

More than 60 elected officials — including City Councilman Costa Constantinides, state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Comptroller Scott Stringer — had announced their opposition to the 24-mile pipeline along with 250 organizations and nearly 20,000 who stand against the project.

National Grid had warned the pipeline was necessary to provide guaranteed service to new gas customers, including Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $1.18 billion Belmont Park redevelopment plan. Environmentalists warned the project would prolong dependence on fossil fuels instead of moving towards a clean energy future and that construction would pollute the waters by kicking up toxic heavy metals in the sediment.

“As currently conceived in the application, construction of the NESE pipeline project is projected to result in water quality violations and fails to meet New York State’s rigorous water quality standards,” the state Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement released Wednesday. “Specifically, construction of the proposed project would result in significant water quality impacts from the re-suspension of sediments and other contaminants, including mercury and copper.”

Stringer called the decision a major victory.

“We’ve been outspoken in opposition to the pipeline from the beginning, and I am so proud of the coalition of dedicated advocates who refused to have their voices drowned out be entrenched interests,” he said. “The fossil fuel industry learned an important lesson, they are no match against the people of New York. When we fight back, we win.”

The fight is far from over because the DEC rejection was “without prejudice” meaning the Oklahoma-based Williams Transco could reapply.

“The Department of Conservation raised a minor technical issue with our application for water quality certification,” Williams Transco spokesman Chris Stockton said. “Our team will be evaluating the issue and resubmitting the application quickly. We are confident that we can be responsive to this technical concern, meet our customer’s in-service date and avoid a moratorium that would have a devastating impact on the regional economy and environment.”

National Grid expressed confidence that the project will proceed on schedule and be in service by 2021.

“Until we have greater certainty around the project’s application approval timeline, we will continue to advise all new commercial and residential applicants that our ability to provide firm gas service is contingent on the timely construction of NESE,” a National Grid spokeswoman said.

Opposition to the project will continue, according to Stringer.

“Today we celebrate. But tomorrow we must get back to work fighting for the urgent action that our climate crisis demands,” Stringer said. “We must invest in renewable energy, combat pollution, develop pathways for green and sustainable infrastructure, and do everything in our power to protect our people and the planet for generations to come.”