Representatives from political and environmental organizations around Long Island came out to protest New York State Senator Anna Kaplan’s support for the Williams Pipeline on Monday, Nov. 11.
A crowd of about 30 people armed with signs and chants picketed near the front entrance of an office building a 1 Old Country Rd. in Carle Place, where Kaplan was holding open office hours to meet with constituents, with the hope they could get her to change her mind about supporting the polarizing development project. Several of the attendees worked on Kaplan’s 2018 campaign, and viewed her support of the project as a slight to earlier promises.
“We have 10 years and counting to reverse the effects of the climate crisis,” environmental activist Gaby Cervantes, representing the group 350 Brooklyn, said at the onset of the rally. “Completing the Williams Pipeline is reckless. We don’t have the time or the luxury to not incentivize renewables and draw the line on burning fossil fuels that poison our water, our land and our air.”
The plan from Tulsa, OK-based natural gas giant Williams Companies Inc. to expand and revamp a corridor of its 10,500-mile-long Transcontinental Pipeline that runs from Texas to Queens has been a lightning rod of controversy in the state for years. The Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), as Williams terms it, would provide National Grid an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day for customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island through a 24-mile long pipeline running from New Jersey across to just offshore of the Rockaways.
Kaplan stated in a TV interview that the pipeline would provide emergency relief to meet rapidly-expanding demands for natural gas throughout Long Island, a rationale criticized by rally-goers.
“Her defense of the pipeline was really rather off base,” Food and Water Watch Senior Organizer Eric Weltman said. “She was saying it would be a response to emergency need, but this pipeline would take at least a year to be built. So there’s no way this pipeline could deal with near-term needs. The fact is that conservation and energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to reduce demand.”
Proponents of the project have said the pipeline will provide cleaner energy to the area than it would receive through burning oil (although 90 percent of the state’s power since 2012 is already derived from natural gas, nuclear and hydro power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration) and serve as a stopgap while the state transitions to renewable energy. Critics, however, say expanding fossil fuel infrastructure at this time is irresponsible, and if done will leave its architects complicit in the deaths of about 250,000 people per year due to climate change between 2030 and 2050 alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In attendance at the rally were officials from the Nassau County Green Party, South Shore Audubon Society, Food and Water Watch, Nassau County Democratic Socialists of America and 350 Brooklyn. The protesters kept on through the sunset, chanting slogans and giving speeches for about an hour as people entered and exited the building. Chants like “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now,” and “Hey hey, Cuomo, Williams Pipeline’s got to go” were repeated in unison throughout the rally.
At the conclusion of the protest, several activists from the crowd entered the building to speak to Kaplan. The state senator has yet to respond to requests for comment on the protest at this time.
Kaplan, a refugee of the 1979 Iranian Revolution who settled in Great Neck and served as a councilwoman for the Town of North Hempstead from 2012-18, campaigned for the State Senate in part on environmental activism. The “Issues” page on her old campaign website includes a promise to “Protect Long Island’s Aquifers.” New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied without prejudice an earlier proposal for the pipeline in May on the ground that its construction would significantly harm water quality in the area.