Another Pipeline Proposed For Rockaway’s Waters

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Another natural gas pipeline project could be on the way. Williams, the company that brought the Rockaway Lateral Project under Riis Park in 2015, is looking to make new additions to its extensive Transco pipeline project that would be placed under area waters.

The last natural gas project proposed for local waters, Port Ambrose, was met with heavy backlash. In November 2015, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed the project, shutting it down before it could begin. Now environmental groups are fighting a new proposal that would be placed under waters off the coast of Rockaway, Williams’ Northeast Supply Enhancement project (NESE).

According to Williams, the “Northeast Supply Enhancement project will increase Transco pipeline deliveries to National Grid by 400 million cubic feet per day (enough natural gas to serve the daily needs of about 2.3 million homes) for the 2019/2020 winter heating season.” The project would include adding 37 miles of pipeline and a new compression station to its existing Transco pipeline system, which covers 10,000 miles across several states. Part of the project would include 10 miles of 42-inch pipe in Lancaster County, Pa., a compressor station in Somerset County, NJ and 3.5 miles of 26-inch pipe in Middlesex County, NJ. However, the bulk of it would be placed in waters near Rockaway. About 23 miles of 26-inch pipe would be installed under the ocean floor from New Jersey to the Rockaway Lateral Project, which runs off the waters of Rockaway and under Riis Park.

The project is in the early filing stages. In April of this year, Williams officially filed the formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Williams hopes to start construction in summer 2018 and have it in service by winter 2019/2020. A public comment period was supposed to begin already, but it has not yet opened.

Williams says the pipeline would be beneficial, claiming that there is a growing demand for natural gas in the area; that the $1 billion privately-funded project would have an economic benefit by creating more than 3,000 jobs during the one-year construction process and that it would lower utility costs, plus the company claims that it would be done in a way that will have no negative effect on Rockaway or its beaches and that the company has a safe reputation, citing the Rockaway Lateral Project, which was installed and has been in operation since 2015 without incident.

Yet on Thursday, November 16, dozens came out to a meeting at the Knights of Columbus, including environmental group and community leaders, to speak against the project. The Surfrider Foundation spearheaded the meeting, but had the support of other groups including Sane Energy Project, Food & Water Watch, United for Action, 350 BK, New York Communities for Change and more. “This pipeline, if installed, will greatly affect this community and the ocean that surrounds it, so we’re opposing this pipeline,” Noelle Picone from the Surfrider Foundation began.

The meeting focused on reasons for why the project would be negative, including the impacts it could have on marine life, local ecology and the overall environment; an unsafe track record for Williams and natural gas pipeline companies in general; that existing pipeline projects are already underutilized; and plans that are in the works for alternative, cleaner energy sources, such as wind power. Governor Cuomo has made a commitment to increase the use of wind power with an offshore wind project planned for 12 miles off the coast of the peninsula.

Since Governor Cuomo vetoed Port Ambrose, organizers are trying to get his attention about this specific project so that he can do the same. “Cuomo can stop the pipeline. Our strategy has shifted to Cuomo because he’s more likely to block this than the federal government,” Picone said.

Organizers provided ways for people to fight the pipeline, including calling Cuomo’s office at 888-997-5380, signing a petition at bit.ly/williamspipeline, and attending a Cuomo fundraising rally on December 14 at the restaurant, Cipriani Wall Street in downtown Manhattan.

The Rockaway Times reached out to a leader of a group that fights to preserve the local environment. Speaking anonymously, they said there is a middle ground between what supporters and protesters are arguing. “This project wouldn’t be all doom and gloom, yet it’s not nothing to worry about,” they said. They would not support the project outright, but said that it would not impact Rockaway directly as much as the Rockaway Lateral Project does, and that there could be some benefits as a result, such as Williams supporting the creation of artificial reefs in the waters, which would boost local ecology.

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