Grassroots climate campaigners in New York celebrated a major victory late Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocked the construction of a $1 billion pipeline which would have carried fracked gas from New Jersey to Long Island.
The 24-mile Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project, proposed by the Oklahoma-based Williams Company, has been the subject of protests by groups including 350.org and Food and Water Watch.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) supported concerns brought up by opponents of the project when it ruled that construction of the pipeline would endanger marine life and release mercury and copper from sediment in the New York Bay and Raritan Bay.
"Construction of the NESE pipeline project is projected to result in water quality violations and fails to meet New York State's rigorous water quality standards," the agency said in a statement.
"The state has made it clear that dangerous gas pipelines have no place in New York," said Kim Ong, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in a statement. "This is a victory for clean water, marine life, communities, and people's health across the state."
Food and Water Watch called the decision "a step in the right direction," but warned campaigners will need to remain vigilant "to be sure [the pipeline] is never built!"
BREAKING: NY DEC has rejected the permit for the Williams pipeline based on water quality concerns.
This is a step in the right direction.
We will continue fighting to be sure it is never built! #StoptheWilliamsPipelinehttps://t.co/ogQ8FCBmVN pic.twitter.com/qPoADeep2M
— Food & Water Watch (@foodandwater) May 16, 2019
"Let's be clear: people power will make sure the Williams fracked gas pipeline is never built, and people power will build real solutions to the climate crisis," said Cata Romo, an organizer with 350.org. "New York has the potential to be a national model for real climate leadership, and this decision will reverberate across the U.S. and around the world. To build a transformative Green New Deal that science and justice deem necessary, Governor Cuomo must stop the Williams pipeline permanently and implement a sweeping ban on fossil fuel projects across New York."
The grassroots alliance Stop the Williams Pipeline this month had called on lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), to help block the project.
There's no room for a fracked gas pipeline in a Green New Deal! #StopTheWilliamsPipeline@AOC will you join thousands of New Yorkers and oppose the Williams NESE fracked gas pipeline? https://t.co/ONOLNhDxFx
— Stop the Williams Pipeline (@NoNYHarborPipe) May 9, 2019
Just before the Cuomo administration handed down its decision, Ocasio-Cortez and other New York lawmakers signed a letter demanding that the pipeline construction be canceled.
"We stand ready to help the state of New York transition to renewable energy sources that will not jeopardize the public and environmental health of our region," reads the letter.
The DEC specified that the decision was made "without prejudice," meaning the Williams Company would be able to reapply—but the corporation would have to prove it would take steps to prevent the disruption of shellfish beds and the release of hazardous metals.
The NRDC vowed to fight any future attempt by Williams to move ahead with the project.
"Along with our allies, we will continue to ensure this reckless project is shelved forever," said Ong.