There was some public outcry against the Rockaway Delivery Lateral Project, the natural gas pipeline that will run from the Atlantic Ocean, under the Rockaways and Jamaica Bay, and into to southeast Brooklyn, when it was proposed in August of 2012. However, the project was approved shortly thereafter and, since then, we've heard very little about it, despite the fact that construction has been ongoing.
Now, an article in Al Jazeera America suggests that the concerns of Rockaways residents still protesting the project are a good deal more founded than run-of-the-mill NIMBYism. Williams Companies, the company installing the pipeline, is currently "the subject of a U.S. Chemical Safety Board probe because of a recent string of incidents," including a 2013 petrochemical facility explosion in Louisiana that killed two, a 2013 gas facility fire in New Jersey that injured 13, and, this year, a gas plant explosion in Washington state that injured five and forced the evacuation of an entire town, and a pipeline explosion in West Virigina, a pipeline fire in Wyoming, and a compressor station fire in Pennsylvania. "The string of incidents was very uncharacteristic," said a Williams spokesperson, adding, "Safety is not a destination you reach. It's an ongoing journey." There have been "about 8,000 significant pipeline incidents in the United States" since 1986, and "Williams pipelines have been involved in at least 50 gas transmission incidents since 2006," according to data from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an organization that has itself been criticized by Congress for failing to adequately address safety issues.
All of this begs the question: Why aren't more people more upset about this new pipeline? But a more apropos question actually might be: How many people even knew about it in the first place? The bill that allowed for the pipeline to be approved was signed into law by Congress mere weeks after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Rockaways, which resulted in the whole project getting the green light without its opponents being able to mount much of a defense. Now, with the pipeline set to begin operating in November, the community just hopes that Williams and the government remain vigilant.
· In the Rockaways, pipeline debate takes a contentious turn [Al Jazeera America]
· Proposed Gas Pipeline, Endorsed by the City, Draws Criticism [NYT]
Photo by Atomische