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 at 1 Old Country Rd. in Carle Place, where Kaplan was holding open office hours to meet with constituents, in 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.
“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 pipeline running from New Jersey to just off the shore of the Rockaways.
At the conclusion of the protest, several activists from the crowd entered the building to speak to Kaplan. The state senator told the Great Neck Record that the pipeline would provide relief to Long Islanders going without gas at the time, and that while she respects the concerns of the protesters, she needs to weigh the needs of all her constituents.
“We talked about the environment, and how it’s important to make sure we do everything in our power to protect it,” Kaplan said. “But I think they also understood that I represent 350,000 people, and there are people who are really hurting right now. I also have to be responsible to their needs.”
Proponents of the project, including Kaplan, 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 will result in intensified damage from climate change in the years to come.
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.
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. Responding to the concerns raised by the DEC, Kaplan said she trusted the department’s judgement and ability to work out a method that would leave the area’s aquifers unharmed.