While Rockaway businesses are thrilled with the city’s announcement that public beaches will reopen to the public on Memorial Day weekend, environmental groups and elected officials are less than enthusiastic with the return of the Williams Pipeline proposal.
In 2019 and again in 2020, New York state regulators denied key construction permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline, which would have brought fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New York City to a terminus less than three miles off the shore of Rockaway Beach.
Despite significant public opposition to the previous attempts, Williams Transco’s recent extension request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) noted plans to reapply again this year bringing the project “back from the grave,” according to one environmental group.
“As part of a community that endured the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy, we recognize the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels and fracked gas infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in alignment with New York’s climate goals,” the Rockaway Beach Civic Association said in a statement. “Clean water and healthy ecosystems are essential to the environment and economy. The NYS DEC and the NJ DEP decisively denied the water quality permits necessary for the Williams NESE Pipeline, and the facts and findings of those determinations have not changed.”
Nor has the coalition of Queens elected officials who have risen up against the Williams Pipeline. More than a dozen signed on to a letter from Comptroller Scott Stringer to federal regulators calling for the final rejection of the proposal.
“Simply put, the Williams Pipeline has no place here. As a member of the Rockaway community and as a member of the NYS Assembly Corporation, Authorities and Commissions Committee, the re-emergence of this pipeline is unwelcome and unwanted,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pfeffer Amato said. “We’ve fought this pipeline before, and we will continue to fight as long as it’s necessary to preserve our beautiful and irreplaceable beaches.”
Rockaway District Leader Lew Simon said he was “flabbergasted” that the company was once again presenting the same project that was denied last May.
“It is apparent that they have no clue about the reality that fossil fuels are not the future and in the next five years will be worthless, he said. It is a sentiment echoed for former Councilman Costa Constantinides, who added his signature to the letter before leaving office last week for a position in the private sector.
“Every gallon or cubic meter of fossil fuel burned pushes us that much closer to climate catastrophe,” Constantinides said. “There is no future for humanity if we keep building oil and gas infrastructure, and the Williams Pipeline presents an unacceptable risk to all New Yorkers. Let’s put an end to this fracked gas nightmare that goes against the city and state climate policy and start investing in real sustainable solutions for our city.”
QNS reached out to National Grid, the corporate utility that is contracted to purchase 100 percent of the gas from the Williams Pipeline, and is awaiting a response.
“It’s obvious Williams Transco is grabbing for whatever is left as we see the approaching end of fossil fuel dominance,” Sane Energy Project Rockaway Outreach Coordinator JK Canepa said. “We expect FERC to deny them yet another chance to irrevocably damage our waters and our waterfront communities.”