Four chained demonstrators arrested in Brooklyn anti-gas pipeline protest

One of the four protestors who descended into the excavation site to stop work on Montrose Avenue. (Photo by Lisette DeJesus)

This chain gang in Brooklyn had one message for a utility company: Frack off!

Climate activists chained themselves inside an excavation site in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Thursday morning where National Grid is installing a high pressure gas pipeline from what they say is “fracked gas” that will service much of central and south Brooklyn.

National Grid is installing the “MRI” pipeline to expand and improve natural gas service, officials say. They also say the protestors were putting themselves, workers and the public at risk by breaching the worksite. But protesters claim the pipelines are “unnecessary and contribute to greenhouse gases and present a danger to a mostly black and brown community.”

Fracked gas has been very controversial as activists say the practice — which involves the injection of pressurized chemicals deep into the earth— is damaging underground aquifers and adding methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide, to the air, critiques contend.

At about 9 a.m. on Oct. 4, demonstrators from different organizations, though under the umbrella of No North Brooklyn Pipeline posted on social media that “Brooklyn community members have locked down the National Grid’s North Brooklyn fracked gas pipeline halting construction.”

Four protestors then climbed into the excavation site on Montrose and Manhattan Avenues, thereby shutting down the construction site until police could arrive. Emergency service cops had to cut chains that the protestors used to bind themselves together with the construction supports. All four were taken into custody, including one woman and three young men.

Protestors chained themselves in the excavation site until police could remove them in East Williamsburg. (Photo by Lisette DeJesus)

NYPD officials said charges are pending against the four. No injuries were reported in this protest.

Robert Wood, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, said their aim was to “shut down the MRI pipeline and bring it to the attention of the community.”

“The MRI pipeline is a transmission line all the way through Brownsville, predominantly through black and brown communities and the community was never adequately informed,” he said.  “This project would essentially ask rate payers and small businesses here to foot the bill for this project that is not only unsafe, and contributes to the climate crisis that people don’t want to have to subsidize so that national grid shareholders can run away with the big bucks. It’s rate payers who’s bills will go up.”

Wood said the existing pipelines “serve the community just fine” and “on top of it all, we have this climate crisis, and fracked gas is worse than coal because you have to consider all the leaking that is happening. 

“The mayor has issued an executive order that he has banned all the fossil fuel infrastructure projects, this is what he did earlier this year,” Wood added. “What we are saying is put your money where your mouth is and shut this thing down.”

Robert Wood, a member of the Democratic Socialist of America, said their aim was to “shut down the MRI pipeline and bring it to ghet attenion of the community.” (Photo by Lisette DeJesus)

Lisette DeJesus said she came out to photograph the scene for Pipeline Acitivism, but then she realized the protest was “emotional for me.”

“I’m not really an activists – my friends that got me involved, and you see people who are supposed to be protecting us, police, government and NatGrid likes to display an image that they care that it is beneficial and not harmful to environment, but in the end, its honestly painful to see and that’s why we are here.”

Kim Fraczea, an organizer with the Sane Energy Project, said protestors will return on Friday for a 10:30 press conference where they will condemn the project.

“This is a high pressure fracked gas pipeline, in several neighborhoods, mostly Black and Brown people with high asthma rates, and entering COVID-19, National Grid wants to raise our rates $185 million just for this project and nearly a billion for more fracked gas,” said Fraczea.

Anti gas pipeline organize on the East Williamsburg, Brooklyn street. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

A spokesman for the state Public Service Commission said in an email to the New York Post Thursday that the agency “has instituted a proceeding to examine the way National Grid and all of the state’s local gas distribution companies plan for the future of the natural gas system.”

National Grid also issued a statement regarding the protest:

Today’s breach of an active National Grid work zone at Manhattan and Montrose Avenues in Brooklyn presented a public safety hazard for our employees and the public.  While the company is open to hearing opinions and positions on a variety of topics related to its business and respects the right to peaceful protest, it must be done safely. 

“The safety of our employees and the communities we serve is the top priority at National Grid,” said John Bruckner, President National Grid New York.  “Work zone safety is a matter of life and death.  We provide extensive training, personal protective equipment, and specific procedures to ensure our workers safely return home to their families and to keep our communities safe.” 

This is the second time that protestors have breached a work zone site, putting the safety of the participants and others in jeopardy.  The company works with local authorities to help maintain safety in the community.

“At National Grid, we work every day to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of our customers. More than 1.9 million homes and businesses in the downstate region depend on us to deliver the energy they need to heat their homes and run their businesses,” added Bruckner, who’s also the company’s Safety Officer.  “Our network moves natural gas to customers throughout neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and on Long Island.  National Grid continues to move forward on clean energy initiatives and consistently performs maintenance work and plans system integrity projects which are critical to providing quality service to customers.  That’s part of our obligation as a critical service provider.”

The Metropolitan Natural Gas Reliability Project is one of those integrity projects.  There’s been a lot of misinformation about the project.  It does not bring additional supply to New York, instead, it is designed to move existing supplies of natural gas more efficiently through the system and help alleviate existing network constraints.  It’s like adding an extra lane to a very busy road to help reduce traffic congestion.

“This project was approved in 2016 and has been in progress for the past three years.  There’s an extensive community outreach program with residents directly along the route in advance of construction, notices distributed to businesses and local community leaders, and a dedicated project website with weekly construction updates,” said Bruckner. “We’re working in compliance with all city and state rules and regulations to complete any work.  Today’s work zone breach was an unfortunate and truly dangerous action and should not happen again.”

Anti gas pipeline protestors said they will return to East Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Friday. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
Anti gas pipeline protestors said they will return to East Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Friday. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
The George Linds Public School is next to the pipeline project in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Photo by Todd Maisel)