Op-Ed: Brooklyn Pipeline Fight Shows Need for Climate Leadership

For months, residents and activists have been leading a campaign to stop the North Brooklyn Pipeline, a dangerous project that would expand the delivery of fracked gas into our borough. In mid-October, they were joined at a rally by Representative Nydia Velazquez and other elected officials. This is exactly the kind of leadership we need from our Congressional delegation in the fight to move New York and the nation off fossil fuels.

Eric Weltman

This pipeline is an urgent reminder of the threat that climate change poses to Brooklyn, where some neighborhoods are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. Even though Governor Cuomo banned fracking in New York, he has allowed a buildout of new pipelines and power plants that transport and burn fracked gas. This treacherous pattern can be seen across the country, as the fossil fuel industry pushes plans to build new infrastructure to maintain our reliance on its poisonous product.

But those plans are being challenged by activists across the country, and political leaders are increasingly joining the movement.  We have the technology right now to make the transition to renewable energy; what we are sorely lacking is the leadership of elected officials like Representative Hakeem Jeffries, who recently voted for legislation providing billions of dollars in subsidies to support oil and gas development. As the number four Democrat in the House of Representatives, we need him to stand up to big oil, reject the industry’s phony climate ‘solutions,’ and champion the policies that will end our dependence on fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, some policies touted as climate solutions are really just industry-backed smokescreens. Carbon taxes, for example, have proven to be ineffective at reducing emissions and are costly to consumers. ExxonMobil and its corporate allies back these schemes because they enable the industry to keep drilling and fracking. Fossil fuel corporations are also pushing expensive and unproven technologies such as “carbon capture,” which attempt to capture smoke stack emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere. They support these techniques not because they care about the climate, but because they protect the fossil fuel status quo.

Instead of embracing bogus industry-backed climate policies, our Congressional delegation must stand up to the fossil fuel industry. Our survival is a stake. Safer alternatives are affordable and accessible, including wind power, solar panels, heat pumps, mass transit, and energy efficiency, which can create thousands of good green jobs while cleaning our air and protecting our water.

As the burgeoning climate movement champions bold Green New Deal style policies, Democratic leaders like Jeffries must decide where they stand. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team have put forward weak plans that do nothing to stem the supply of fossil fuels. We must put a stop to the billions of dollars in federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. We need to stop the construction of new pipelines and power plants that transport and burn fracked gas. We need to end the export of fossil fuels overseas. And we need a national ban on fracking.

Anything less from Jeffries and House Democrats risks further catastrophes like Superstorm Sandy for Brooklyn, New York, and the nation.

Eric Weltman is a Brooklyn-based Senior Organizer with Food & Water Action, a nonprofit environmental organization.

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