Over 700 New Yorkers assembled on Thursday evening, April 18th in front of City Hall calling on New York State Governor Cuomo to block the planned Williams Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline (NESE) which would run 23 miles along the South Coast of Staten Island, past Coney Island, ending in the South Rockaways where it would be connected to the existing Transco pipeline.
Before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, activists and elected officials addressed the crowd.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, “We have to see actions. Governor, we are at a time where you can no longer use loopholes at your convenience. You must stand up and do the things you say you’re going to do. You said you would ban fracked gas so you must stand up now prevent this pipeline from coming through New York state.” In 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned hydraulic fracturing in the Empire State claiming shale-gas wells could potentially be harmful to children, yet New York imports shale gas from Pennsylvania.
13-year-old climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor who has been protesting in front of the UN every Friday for the past 18 weeks wants to see a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. “This pipeline is madness, we must transition to renewable energy, and we must keep it in the ground,” emphasizing the health risks posed to those living close to fracking sites.
Saylor Pochan, a volunteer with Surfrider Foundation, alongside fellow activist Joan and both Rockaway Beach residents pointed out that thanks to the water clean up in recent decades ocean wildlife in the Rockaways is thriving again, “We have dolphins, we have whales, we have sea turtles, we have these really adorable birds called Piping Plovers. But if this pipeline passes through all this stuff is in danger. It will hurt marine life; it will hurt the ecosystem,” referring to the lackluster safety record of Williams, an energy company based in Tulsa Oklahoma. In the last ten years, Williams pipelines and compressor stations exploded or caught on fire killing six people and injuring over 100. The seabed excavation required to install the pipeline would release buried toxins from the industrial era like PCBs, lead, and arsenic endangering the health of humans and marine wildlife alike.
Assemblymember Bobby Carroll (D-Assembly District 44) has been pushing his colleagues in the assembly to ask Governor Cuomo to stop the Williams pipeline and introduced a bill which would put a moratorium on all pipelines going through New York State. “If Governor Cuomo is being honest about his plans to take New York off fossil fuel he cannot approve a pipeline that is meant to last for the next fifty years.”
Over 60 elected officials signed a letter in March calling on Governor Cuomo to stop the pipeline, joining a growing opposition of organizations and ordinary New Yorkers. On Monday, April 15th, the New York City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee held a hearing about the pipeline where activists had a chance to share their concerns about the pipeline. And just hours before the rally and march, the New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act, a package of environmental protection bills which includes a resolution calling on the Department of Environmental Conversation to deny the permit for the Williams pipeline. The Department is expected to decide on whether to approve, deny, or delay construction of the pipeline by May 16.