7/4/13

Piping Gas through Gateway National Park

There are seven miles of high-pressure gas pipeline waiting to run up out of the Atlantic Ocean through the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens to Avenue U in Brooklyn through the Gateway National Recreation Area.

Two companies, two pipelines: Williams/Transco, building the Rockaway Lateral; and National Grid, building the Brooklyn-Queens Interconnect. One project, one mission: bring more natural gas to Brooklyn and Queens.

You've heard all the bogus arguments for this type of project: we need the gas; gas is clean energy; gas is cheap.

Why build a gas pipeline through a national park? Because there is nothing living there that has a human voice: no one to complain, no one to fight back.

The requisite public notices have been issued and public meetings have been held; a few newspaper articles have appeared, but the National Park Service (NPS) has deliberately not told Gateway National Park's 10 million annual visitors about the pipeline.

The NPS, which initially opposed the project, has been bribed into silence by Transco. Its budget gutted by years of government underfunding, NPS will receive "rent" from Transco for housing a gas metering and regulating (M and R) station in an empty hangar at Floyd Bennett Field.

Congressional Representative Michael Grimm reaped $3,000 in campaign donations for his role in getting the pipeline approved.

Ironically, Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed the pipeline as part of his administration's PlaNYC initiative, touted as a "green platform" for building future resiliency in the face of climate change.

There is nothing "green" about fossil fuels. The only thing we can do now to avert climate catastrophe is to divest from fossil fuels, leaving them in the ground.

The hidden costs of the NPS/Transco deal ("externalities" in corporate lingo) will be paid by others down the road. Let's zoom in on some of those.

According to Dan Mundy, of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, the artificial reefs in the general path of the pipeline, which Transco initially tried to dismiss as man-made “obstructions,” are covered with northern coral and host marine life that includes lobster, spider crabs, skates, rays, fluke and flounder. Ignoring the life on the ocean floor, Transco plans to trench this area with a jet sled, characterizing any disruption as “temporary.”

According to Dan Mundy, the high-pressure jet will blast or bury everything -- reefs, coral and marine life in the path of the trench. The sled will dredge up heavy metals in the ocean floor and a million cubic yards of sediment, which could bury the artificial reefs, undoing thousands of dollars in investment and millions of hours in volunteer labor.

Jamaica Bay’s 100 acres of restored wetlands host small marine organisms that, at high tide, feed larger marine organisms that travel into the bay. Endangered, threatened and rare species like sea turtles, Atlantic sturgeon and horseshoe crabs spawn in the bay. And Ecowatchers has restored oysters, each capable of cleaning 40 gallons of water a day, to this area. The jet sled threatens to wipe them out.

The Jamaica Bay wildlife refuge, part of the Atlantic Flyway, is a birder's paradise, a stopping point or nesting ground for over 300 bird species and 50 species of butterfly, including innumerable marine and shore birds, peregrine falcons, the endangered piping plover and roseate tern, and the threatened checkered white butterfly. A single spill of drilling fluid or a gas leak, like the National Grid spill in nearby Paerdegat Basin last fall, could put them all at risk.

Like the rest of Gateway, Floyd Bennett Field took the brunt of Hurricane Sandy. It was hit again during the cleanup period that followed, when it became a garbage dump and staging ground for emergency crews and the site of the city's open burn of 15,000 storm-downed trees. Now, Transco’s 60,000-square-foot M and R station threatens to make the field a continuous source of noise, pollution, and fugitive methane emissions.

The area is heavily used by schoolchildren, campers, gardeners, veterans groups, aviation buffs, and visitors to the Aviator sports complex. The nearby community garden, with over 400 gardeners and 500 plots, is a habitat for birds, beneficial insects, bees, and bats.

Transco will provide no security at the site other than cameras, barricades and a telephone hookup to company headquarters. There is no plan in the event of an accident, a break-in, a gas leak or a fire. Many of the hydrants are broken, water pressure is low, and evacuation would be difficult.

Floyd Bennett Field almost flooded during Hurricane Sandy. It may flood next time. M and R stations in operation during a flood tend to explode.

The Rockaway pipeline is only one of thousands being built across the U.S. as Big Energy positions itself to export liquefied natural gas. There are now two LNG export terminals in the U.S., one in Louisiana and one in Texas, with 26 more being pushed through. The driving force behind this huge build-out in gas infrastructure? Hydrofracking.

If we fail to stop fracking, Gateway is only one of countless national treasures at risk.

For more information, contact the Coalition against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) on Facebook

The post from New York Sierra Club.

More from Gotham Gazette.

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