A band of protesters booming Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ rolled up to the FDNY headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn Wednesday to drop off a giant letter with a simple request: Deny the permits.
In the latest move in their fight against National Grid’s North Brooklyn Pipeline, Brooklyn climate activists, including former-FDNY staff, are asking the FDNY to deny permits it says the utility needs to expand its Greenpoint facility with more Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) equipment.
“LNG is highly explosive,” activist and Sane Energy Project organizer Lee Ziesche told the crowd of about 25 cycling protestors.
“We’re asking the FDNY to reject all the permits. It’s not just for the community, but the fire fighters themselves, who would have to rush in if something happened.”
National Grid needs more than 10 permits from the FDNY for the expansion.
Ziesche said the FDNY also has the power to ensure that a full Environmental Impact Statement is done, assessing the environmental impact on the community, which protestors were asking for as well.
National Grid is currently seeking approvals to move forward with an expansion plan that would see it build two new LNG vaporizers and two new CNG injection heaters in Greenpoint.
The plan would also see trucks carrying CNG through Greenpoint during periods of peak demand, which protestors said was dangerous.
In Sept. 2019, a truck carrying CNG overturned near Binghamton, New York, puncturing its container system and sending compressed methane gas leaking into the atmosphere. The incident caused Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue a state of emergency in Broome County, closing two school systems for a day and requiring the evacuation of approximately 80 homes.
Former FDNY deputy chief Ed Power attended the rally and said National Grid was putting profits before people: “It’s our risk for their reward.”
The 28-year FDNY veteran said many other current and former first responders he had talked to were against the LNG and CNG expansion.
Due to the particular makeup of LNG, it could create a “nightmarish scenario” for the FDNY and the public if there was any sort of spill, he said.
While protesters weren’t expecting any FDNY representatives to show up Wednesday — having received no response to their initial communications — three men did exit the headquarters to meet them.
Power handed over a giant, printed copy of the protesters’ requests to the men, who assured him the letter would get to FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro.
Meanwhile, SANE Energy organizer Monica Hunken asked the FDNY to “be heroes” and protect New Yorkers against the threat National Grid was posing.
“FDNY, keep us safe,” the protesters chanted. “Stop the head of the pipeline snake!”
For the last year, a grassroots movement has been growing in opposition to the fracked gas pipeline National Grid has been building through Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and Williamsburg, ending at its facility in Greenpoint.
Wednesday’s caravan was the latest move in efforts to stop the pipeline, which has been accused of exacerbating climate racism with a multi-million price tag for ratepayers.
In a statement made to the BK Reader after the rally, FDNY spokeperson Frank Dwyer said the department has no role approving the construction of natural gas pipelines or otherwise regulating the natural gas supply.
However, the Fire Department does regulate fire safety at National Gridís existing natural gas facility in Greenpoint, he said.
“The Departmentís role is limited to the safe storage, handling and use of natural gas in accordance with applicable fire safety requirements. The Fire Departmentís consideration of such matters would not require that we evaluate the pipeline development.
“The Fire Department reviews and considers all applications and permits in accordance with applicable laws, rules and regulations.”
Responding to the protests, National Grid spokesperson Karen Young told BK Reader the project was a “non-pipeline solution to ensure reliability on the coldest winter days when demand is at the highest and customers need energy to heat their homes.”
She said the project was part of a company report that outlined a non-pipeline solution coupled with “energy efficiency and demand response to reduce gas usage and solve for capacity constraints in the region.”