National Grid this week applied to raise customers’ gas bills citywide so that it can build two new gas vaporizers in Greenpoint—a project fiercely opposed by a group of public housing residents who live across from the Newtown Creek plant.

On Monday, the utility submitted a report to the Public Service Commission to ask for an independent review into the new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vaporizers, plus “cost recovery” for the build.

The total cost to install the vaporizers is estimated at $65 million, National Grid says.

For many residents of Cooper Park Houses– a public housing complex directly across the street from National Grid’s Newtown Creek facility—the project is unwanted. But this week’s filing gives them a chance to be heard by the utility face-to-face, advocates said Wednesday.

That’s because, as part of the process, National Grid must hold more public hearings on the vaporizers. Two of those will be in person on Sept. 21: one at the Cooper Park Houses gymnasium, and the other at the Polish Slavic Center in Greenpoint.

A protest against National Grid’s expansion in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Jessy Edwards for the BK Reader.

“The [Cooper Park Houses residents] don’t want these vaporizers, but I think it’s good that National Grid is finally going to present to the community directly… it’s the first time they’ll have to be in the same room as us in this way,” Sane Energy Project community coordinator Lee Ziesche told BK Reader.

Sane Energy Project is a non-profit in opposition to the project and the North Brooklyn Pipeline.

It has been in opposition to the vaporizer expansion since National Grid first applied to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for an air permit to add the vaporizers to its Greenpoint facility in May 2020.

In May this year, the DEC delayed—for the sixth time—a decision that could have blocked the build of the two new vaporizers, disappointing residents from Cooper Park Houses who say the vaporizers are unsafe for those living nearby.

Congressmember Nydia Velázquez speaking out against the LNG project in January. Photo: Screenshot / Instagram / @nonbkpipeline

At the time, Elisha Fye, vice president of Cooper Park Houses, said the community would not be able to “heal or rest until we know that National Grid stops expanding their poison for good.”

Attorney for the Cooper Park Resident Council Ruhan Nagra echoed his sentiments, saying the vaporizer project goes against New York climate laws.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) of 2019 establishes aggressive, legally binding targets with the aim to completely transition New York’s economy off fossil fuels. The vaporizers go against the CLCPA, Nagra said.

Brooklyn community members and politicians have been fighting the new vaporizers since the plan was announced, demanding Governor Kathy Hochul and the DEC deny the permits.

Opponents to the project say the vaporizers are part of National Grid’s bigger plan to complete a controversial fracked gas pipeline that already runs through Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and East Williamsburg.

They also say increased emissions from the project would harm the health of locals and contribute to climate change.

But National Grid reiterated to BK Reader Wednesday that the new vaporizers are “necessary to deliver existing supplies more efficiently when needed most on the coldest of days.” 

They said the new vaporizers will run more efficiently, resulting in a decrease of direct emissions from the facility. 

Brownsville residents protest the pipeline. Photo: Supplied/Gabriel Jamison

As part of the review process an independent consultant will conduct an assessment of the project including the need, safety, reliability, and environmental benefits, a spokeperson said.

The ability to recover the costs of the project would also be subject to the achievement of certain performance targets, including in the areas of energy efficiency, demand response, and electrification, they said.  

“The Commission may adopt, reject, in whole or in part, or modify, the independent consultant’s recommendation regarding the Greenpoint LNG Vaporizer Project.”

Ziesche said opponents to the vaporizers “don’t have a lot of faith” in the independent consultant’s ability to assess the impact of the project on disadvantaged communities, based on past decisions.

If, after the public hearings, the PSC rules in favor of the project and the rate hike, the decision will again go back to the DEC to approve air permits.

“We really would expect DEC to do their job and deny the air permit,” Ziesche said. However, if it does not, opponents’ next step will be to reinstate a lawsuit filed by Cooper Park House residents against the vaporizer project. Sane Energy is holding a rally on the issue Sept. 18.

To have your voice heard, attend one of the virtual or in person meetings listed in the information below.

VIRTUAL

Tuesday, September 20 at 1 pm and 6 pm

National Grid info session an hour before each hearing

Register for the 2 pm hearing at this link.

Register for the 7 pm hearing at this link.

IN-PERSON

Wednesday, September 21

1 pm at Cooper Park Houses Gymnasium in East Williamsburg

6 pm at the Polish Slavic Center in Greenpoint

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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