Brooklyn residents have begun protesting the construction of the north Brooklyn pipeline, which has been accused of discriminating against Black neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color, reported The Guardian. Residents and environmental activists believe the pipeline is a violation of their civil rights. Their concerns have been taken up through a complaint filed to the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency, via NY Daily News.
The 7-mile pipeline, also known as the Metropolitan Reliability Project, is reported to pass through Black and brown neighborhoods but avoid wealthy white areas of Brooklyn. The National Grid’s project began in 2017 but by 2020, residents began pushing back in concern for their safety.
From The Guardian:
They have blocked the pipeline’s construction at demonstrations and some have stopped paying part of their utility bills, in an effort to divert funding from the project.
Last summer, they went a step further, filing a complaint against the utility and state that argues the pipeline has resulted in racial discrimination, violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (Title VI prohibits federally-funded entities from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, and other protected identities.)
The areas the pipeline has mapped have fallen victim to environmental racism. According to The Guardian’s report, areas like Ocean-Hill, Bushwick and Brownsville have battled the burdens of toxic hazards and most neighborhoods in the city struggle with high rates autoimmune issues like asthma due to high levels of pollution.
Hopefully, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can exercise their new stance on environmental justice under Biden’s administration to examine this issue. However, EPA has a higher record for dismissing civil rights abuse complaints rather than resolving them, according to the Center of Public Integrity.
Brooklyn community groups had filed complaints against the pipeline project which was followed by an investigation launched by EPA into New York’s department of environmental conservation, according to The Guardian. Temporarily, the investigation has been paused.
From The Guardian:
In a recent development, Malhotra and Wilson were invited to meet with federal agencies in January. There, the co-counsels presented a letter reiterating why it is “unequivocally clear” the environmental conservation department violated the law and to push for greater inclusion of their clients in the informal resolution. Typically, the process doesn’t include the complainants, but the EPA and transportation department are developing a new model to better include the impacted communities, according to Malhotra and Wilson.
It’s an important development, given that Brooklyn residents claim they never had the opportunity to consent to the pipeline – a frequent complaint shared by environmental justice communities.
If no agreement can be reached, the investigations will resume – with a timeline of 180 days in total to potentially arrive at preliminary findings of discrimination.
“This pipeline is just another example of how communities of color that have historically borne the burden of environmental racism continue to pay the price. The only solution to this current problem is to stop the flow of the gas,” said Brownsville Green Justice group member Fabian Rogers via NY Daily News.
A spokeswoman from the National Grid, Wendy Ladd, told NY Daily News the pipeline is a good thing for Brooklyn’s gas utilities and will “improve system reliability and operational flexibility.” However, residents insist the pipeline will negatively effect communities of color at a higher rate and want the operation shut down.
Black neighborhoods tend to be targets for pollution dumping; consider Flint, Michigan or “Cancer Alley” in New Jersey. The fight against climate change must be hand-in-hand with the fight for environmental justice as neighborhoods of color bear the burden of pollution from their water to their air quality.