Neighbors, environmental activists, and elected officials alike gathered last night at the Polish and Slavic Cultural Center (176 Java Street) for a long-awaited public hearing concerning National Grid’s proposal to add two new vaporizers to its Greenpoint facility.
And the message to National Grid was loud and clear — Greenpointers do not want this project to move forward. And they certainly don’t want to pay for it.
An administrative judge facilitated the event, which started with a presentation from the UK-based energy utility.
Representatives from National Grid laid out their overall goal of increasing energy efficiency and ensuring reliable service to their customer base. They told audience members that the additional vaporizers are needed to meet this goal and will only be operated on an as-needed basis. LNG vaporizers store up liquid gas in the months when peak demand is low and turn it back into gas form when demand is higher in the winter months. The project will cost $65 million and will require a rate hike for customers.
National Grid highlighted the steps they’ve taken to reduce gas demand, including eliminating incentives for new gas connections and promoting energy efficiency and alternative forms of energy (though critics would point out later the disparity between this goal and National Grid’s lobbying efforts against a recent critical piece of state legislation banning gas hookups in new construction).
National Grid projected that downstate demand for gas will increase approximately 1.3% per year, based on their Design Day (the coldest day for planning purposes), though they also stated that the demand forecast decreased relative to the 2021 forecast due to expected decrease in commercial load and increased electrification in new construction.
A Q&A portion followed the information session, featuring pointed questions from audience members, who demanded to know why the cost would be passed onto them if National Grid is such a profitable, publicly traded company (Forbes says it made a profit of $2.1 billion last fiscal year). Others pushed back against the purported necessity of the project, asking if all of the vaporizers at the Greenpoint facility ever had to be run at once to meet demand. (National Grid said they did not).
Audience members were skeptical that the vaporizers would be a separate project from the already completed Metropolitan Reliability Infrastructure project (otherwise known as the North Brooklyn Pipeline) and wanted to know why our community should accept the project, given Greenpoint’s already long history of environmental problems. National Grid representatives responded that the company has spent more than $70 million on environmental remediation projects. When the judge asked how much of that was spent on Greenpoint, the representative stated that he could not recall off the top of his head.
The last part of the event was reserved for public statements. Assemblymember Emily Gallagher and Council Member Lincoln Restler both spoke out against the project, as did Democratic nominee for State Senate District 59 Kristen Gonzalez.
“Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure in 2022 is climate denial, and to make all of us pay for that climate denial adds insult to injury,” Gallagher told National Grid representatives.
Multiple speakers called on the state’s Public Service Commission, who can approve or deny the project, to also review phases 1-4 of the MRI project and to specifically examine how the project’s location in neighborhoods such as Brownsville and Bushwick jeopardizes the health and safety of Black and brown communities who live alongside it.
“The project was segmented in a way that ignores the fact that this facility is just one small part of a massive project that stretches across Brooklyn,” said Celina Trowell, a founding member of Brownsville Green Justice. “This project will include over seven miles of pipeline that runs from Brownsville to Ocean Hill to Bushwick to Williamsburg and be connected to this very facility. DPS [Department of Public Service] is supposed to be responsible for the implementation of the Pipeline Safety Act, which requires public education and awareness of pipeline construction, yet somehow, Brownsville is the last to find out, even though we were the first to be impacted by it.”
Greenpoint local Sarah Lyons chastised National Grid’s continual reference to the people in the room as “customers.”
“You look at a room full of people, a room full of community members, and you look at us as resources, as something that you’re going to exploit, just as you’ve exploited the earth, just as you’ve continued to exploit the communities around you.”
An independent review of the project is underway. A full report to the state’s Public Service Commission should be released on October 13.