“Pipedown With the Pipelines”

The health of our communities, longevity of our climate, and gravitas of future sustainable policy are all at stake when National Grid gets its way.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cover Image
By Julia Shen

We instinctively assume a news story about a gas pipeline refers to a far-flung place in middle America or the Middle East. We might know fracked gas reaches New York City—and our stovetops—but how it arrives is not something we need or want to confront. The ugly reality is that pipelines exist in all five boroughs, and their existence challenges the notion that our city is moving in a progressive environmental direction. The pipelines cut through our backyards, polluting and poisoning our breathing air and when done, freely deposit the byproducts in local bodies of water like Newtown Creek.

Right now, National Grid is seeking to expand its fracked gas storage facility in my neighborhood of Williamsburg-Greenpoint. The facility lies at the base of the North Brooklyn Pipeline, a seven-mile pipe that bores through eastern and northern Brooklyn and bisects predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods. There are about 150 thousand residents within the evacuation zone of the pipeline if it were to rupture, as well as 55 public schools, nine healthcare facilities, and three nursing homes.

While the government may deserve the blame for allowing the pipeline to be constructed alongside homes and businesses, the National Grid company leveraged their demand within the city to force their way. When the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) rejected National Grid’s billion-dollar pipeline project in 2019, the company threatened to withhold gas from all new businesses if they did not receive approval. Despite the DEC’s original declaration that a new pipeline would hurt aquatic life, the government allowed the proposal to be resubmitted. In the case of the new fracked gas facility in Greenpoint, New York State has allowed National Grid to file for construction permits.

We cannot allow a company to dictate the public health and safety of our communities, especially when they threaten to restrain our access to the vital resources they control. As residents of the city that a new gas facility will pollute, we need to resist and boycott. Unfortunately, not many people in the path of the pipeline and facility even know it is happening. Apart from the times when the city uproots a street to conduct maintenance on the pipeline, they do not advertise what they are doing and keep it under wraps. A group of North Brooklyn residents has pursued a legal avenue to stop National Grid by suing the company for the harm that the new infrastructure would do to the health of residents.

As a Williamsburg native, I am reminded of our industrial history, which has left a permanent stain on our air quality: we have one of the highest concentrations of nitric oxide and black carbon in our breathing air. The fracking facility and pipeline, which are only a few blocks from my home, would exacerbate our already concerning air quality issues through carbon emissions and contribute to climate change. These new constructions also hold a more symbolic weight: they indicate that the city is not moving in the environmental direction it claims it is. The city has been enforcing strict environmental benchmarks and instituting new programs, like the residential building energy rating, to reach its goal of cutting emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The New York City Green New Deal seeks to address the same problems that the National Grid pipeline causes. We cannot progress to an era of clean energy and sustainability when we do not hold corporations to the same standards. New York needs to take a strong stance against National Grid and the ultimatums that the company is offering.

The debate around National Grid draws question to the future of energy in the country, a concern that President Biden has made a priority of his presidency. Biden has made it clear that he wants the country to move toward green energy; one of his first actions as president was shutting down the Keystone Pipeline. He also made climate action a priority of his foreign policy and rejoined the Paris climate accord. Biden’s energy plan has ramifications for New York City: he designated part of the coastline between New Jersey and New York as an offshore wind zone, indicating a shift to renewable energy. For his actions to sow the seeds for an energy revolution, we cannot simultaneously invest in more fossil fuel infrastructure. While we might rely on fossil fuels and pipelines to fuel our homes now, a gradual shift to sustainability might spell out a gas-independent New York City in the next few decades. Of course, that hopeful reality is only a distant dream if we are complicit in gas corporations. The health of our communities, longevity of our climate, and gravitas of future sustainable policy are all at stake when National Grid gets its way.

We are not helpless in the fight against National Grid and its pipelines. Contact your city council member, and tell them you do not condone a pipeline in your city; continue to limit your individual gas and energy consumption; and write to or call National Grid to express your frustration. Small actions, when compiled, create big change.