This is the sixth time the state has put off a decision on the expansion, which has been criticized by environmentalists as at odds with New York’s climate goals. The DEC says it will wait until the Public Service Commission can evaluate the project.

Liz Donovan

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined at a 2021 rally in Greenpoint opposing the National Grid North Brooklyn Pipeline Project.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has once again delayed the timeline of National Grid’s permit application related to the controversial Greenpoint Energy Project in North Brooklyn.

The application timeline, which was set for a decision on May 7, has been suspended “subject to National Grid commencing and resolving a public proceeding before the New York State Public Service Commission [PSC] to evaluate whether the proposed project is demonstrably needed for reliability purposes,” a DEC spokesperson told City Limits in a statement Sunday night.

This is the sixth time the agency has put off a decision on the permit, which would allow the utility company to expand a facility that converts natural gas that has been cooled into a liquid state back into vapor. By cooling the natural gas to about -260 degrees Fahrenheit, it reduces its volume by 600 times and allows for the gas to be easily transported from a pipeline and stored, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The vaporizers then convert the product back into a gas for use in heating and powering households. 

The Greenpoint facility currently holds six vaporizers—National Grid’s application would allow them to add two.

The company says the two new vaporizers are necessary to fulfill the city’s energy needs. It anticipates the PSC review will take three to four months, according to a National Grid spokesperson.

“A decision on this project is critical to ensure we can serve our existing customers on the coldest winter days when they need us most for heating,” the spokesperson said in a statement to City Limits.

But critics argue that adding new infrastructure supporting fracked gas is not in line with the state’s aggressive climate legislation, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990-levels by 2030, and 85 percent by 2050.

The application for the permit was submitted in 2019, the same year that National Grid began construction on the North Brooklyn Pipeline Project, a seven-mile pipeline that extends from Brownsville to Williamsburg. Protests related to the pipeline, supported by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Comptroller Scott Stringer, led to a joint settlement by National Grid and PSC to halt the project before the completion of its final phase, an expansion into Greenpoint, pending an independent review.

Environmentalists—including the No North Brooklyn Pipeline Coalition, which has been a vocal detractor of National Grid’s expansion in the borough—have demanded the state step in to reject construction of the vaporizers as well.

“The facility should be retired, not expanded,” the group said in a statement. “Instead, the DEC has punted this decision to the Public Service Commission, an agency with a track record of allowing National Grid to steamroll the rights of environmental justice communities and flout climate science.”

In August, the Public Service Commission unanimously voted to approve a rate increase associated with the pipeline, a decision protested by legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Shortly after, Brooklyn residents filed a federal civil rights complaint against National Grid alleging that the pipeline project disproportionately and negatively impacts communities of color, who face higher-than-average asthma rates that may be linked to high-polluting infrastructure, —such as highways, power plants and waste transfer facilities—concentrated in their neighborhoods.

The Department of Public Service was also named in the complaint, which was filed by the Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic at New York Law School and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, for not conducting an adequate assessment of how the project would affect Black and Latino residents in its vicinity.

In considering the permit related to the vaporizers, the Public Service Commission said it will review the reliability needs and assessment that National Grid is required to submit and will allow for an extensive opportunity for public review and comment before making a decision.

That ruling will come as state officials consider public commentary collected at ongoing hearings related to a draft scoping plan to implement the CLCPA and reduce the state’s reliance on natural gas, among other goals of the climate law.

Some residents near the Brooklyn facility and along the pipeline’s path say the delayed decision and continued reliance on natural gas is a sign the state is failing to protect them from harmful pollutants.

“My community will not be able to heal or rest until we know that National Grid stops expanding their poison for good,” said Elisha Fye, who is vice president of the Cooper Park Houses, a public housing complex directly across the street from National Grid’s LNG facility, in a statement related to the DEC’s decision. 

Liz Donovan is a Report for America corps member.