A pipeline, a protest, and a polluted past

On Saturday, as protests demanding racial justice and an end to police violence took over New York City, a separate but related demonstration wound its way through Brooklyn echoing those cries and adding a few more. This other protest took place on bikes, as a few dozen New Yorkers rode the route of a partially constructed natural gas pipeline. As they pedaled through neighborhoods between Brownsville and Greenpoint, the cyclists drew attention to the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards in the predominantly black and brown communities that live along the pipeline’s path, calling on state regulators to put an end to the project.

Formally called the Metropolitan Reliability Infrastructure project (MRI), the 7-mile-long, 30-inch-wide pipe is technically a “transmission main.” Unlike the Williams Pipeline, which would have delivered fracked gas to New York City from Pennsylvania but was recently struck down by the state, the MRI is a much smaller project that will not bring a new supply of gas into the city. National Grid, which is building it, says its primary purpose is to increase the “safety, reliability, and operational flexibility” of the system. The MRI essentially provides “another lane” for the company to deliver gas to customers, according to company spokesperson Karen Young. However, even though the project won’t directly bring new gas into the system, the company has said that it needs the MRI to handle additional gas from other proposed projects, like the expansion of its liquefied natural gas facility in Greenpoint.