Stop the pipeline, get off fracking and fossil fuels 1

I’ve lived in Queens my whole life, but when I took a trip to rural Pennsylvania I saw how the decisions we make here in New York have ripple effects in other communities. In the coming days, Gov. Cuomo faces a deadline on a gas pipeline that threatens the health and safety of our shoreline and beyond.

In October 2014, I joined the advocacy group Food & Water Watch for a “fracking reality tour” of Pennsylvania communities where the dangerous gas drilling process is being used. The reality was disturbing: an industrialized landscape filled with contaminated water, heavy truck traffic and families frightened for their health.

The trip strengthened my commitment to the grassroots movement that successfully convinced Gov. Cuomo to ban fracking in New York. But that work is far from done. Today, the scientific warnings about the global climate crisis are downright frightening, and the solution could not be more urgent: We need to move off fossil fuels and create a 100 percent renewable energy system.

Climate change is not some distant, future threat; we know the effects firsthand. The terrible tragedy of Superstorm Sandy devasted communities in my district, and reinforced the imperative to make the transition to safe energy. New York City is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and destructive storms.

Fossil fuels are driving us towards climate catastrophe, and now New York is on the cusp of an important decision: Whether to allow the Williams Transco Corp. to construct a 14-mile pipeline to deliver fracked gas under New York Harbor. This project, if built, would encourage more fracking in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, increase our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, worsen climate change and threaten ocean life. And it would endanger some of the communities hardest hit by Sandy, including the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island.

There is some good news: While the Trump White House is eager to serve the fossil fuel industry by building more pipelines, the Cuomo administration has the authority to stop this dangerous project by denying Williams the permits it needs to proceed before the May 16 deadline.

New York can stop this pipeline, and we can have a true Green New Deal — one that creates thousands of good clean jobs — by moving off fossil fuels. We can build and install wind turbines and solar panels and make our buildings more energy efficient. And we can repair and rebuild pipes other infrastructure that delivers clean water for all.

But to make New York the national leader in the fight against climate change, we must reject new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, like the pipelines and power plants that transport and deliver fracked gas. The first step will come when New York says no to the Williams pipeline.

Donovan Richards is New York City Councilman for the 31st District, in Southeast Queens, and Chairman of the Committee on Public Safety.

(1) comment


Every wind and solar generating station requires a backup power source, for when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Most utility companies want to build a natural gas backup plant, rather than coal or oil. No pipeline means the necessary backup plant will either have no power, use coal or use oil. All of the options mean more pollution, not less, and also risk having citizens freezing in the dark.

Last winter, in Minnesota, citizens could not heat their homes because the weather was bitter cold, cloudy and windless. Without solar or wind power, the little natural gas they had went to the power plant. Imagine having to burn wood or newspapers in your home to keep warm! In Upstate New York, they're cutting millions of trees down, our precious forests, to burn instead of oil and gas! How smart is that?

Utility companies know their customers want power, they'll import the gas by ship or rail tanker car to keep us warm. The fact is carbon emissions have gone down dramatically thanks to natural gas. It's not perfect, but it is so much better than before. When we have 24 hour wind, you can always close it down.

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