I’m writing to you to ask for your solidarity and for you to join a gas bill strike, withholding a part of your National Grid gas bill and refusing to pay to be poisoned.
National Grid, the gas company for most downstate New Yorkers, has been building a pipeline in North Brooklyn that will bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania into their system here. The pipeline stretches through already heavily polluted Brown and Black working-class communities from Brownsville to Greenpoint, and has been built without community consent. Additionally, they are seeking to expand their gas storage and vaporization (vaporization = how to get LNG, liquefied natural gas, from storage as liquid into pipelines as gas) capacities at their aging, polluted and polluting facility in Greenpoint.
Organizations have mobilized for the last year and a half to oppose and halt both the construction and reimbursement by ratepayers to National Grid. The payment is determined by the State in a procedure known as a “Rate Case.” We have become a part of that process (anyone can apply to be “Parties to the Rate Case,” and we have, in unprecedented numbers). The State and National Grid have just filed a pending agreement in the Rate Case, which will allow the gas expansion, and charge ratepayers (all of us) millions and millions of dollars, as they continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions, as the climate noose is tightening.
We have opposed on the outside: chaining ourselves to pipes, halting construction, getting arrested, rallying, winning the alliance of EVERY elected official on the route of the pipeline, our congress members, all of our state representatives…and on the inside: raising impassioned voices in Rate Case proceedings, organizing the submission of thousands of comments from concerned residents to the public record of the case.
And now, time for our next tactic, as the Commissioners of the Public Service Commission (PSC), the regulatory body overseeing approval, get set to render a decision in the Rate Case.
We have launched a gas bill strike, and are asking all downstate National Grid customers to withhold a portion of their gas bill payment. We’re asking that people hold back $66 and then carry that balance from month to month. We calculated the $66 amount by dividing the $129 million dollars spent on the pipeline by the 1.9 million ratepayers.
Will your gas get turned off? No. Will you be charged a penalty? Maybe less than a dollar per month. What’s the risk? Very little. This is a potentially high impact action with very little risk involved. You can read in detail here about the campaign: https://www.nonbkpipeline.org/strike (including what to do if your bill is less than $66 a month and how to strike if you are enrolled in automatic billing).
We’ll keep holding back the $66 until Governor Cuomo and the PSC deny National Grid a gas bill hike to pay for the pipeline. The vote on the gas bill hike is anticipated for later this summer, July or August. If New York State does the right thing and denies the increase, we’ll end the strike and pay the remainder of our gas bills. If they vote to approve the gas bill hike, we’ll come together as strikers and decide next steps.
There was a bill strike against Con Ed in the early 80s, after they allowed the incursion of river water into the holding area for the nuclear reactor at Indian Point, a plant north of New York City. They were awarded a rate increase to pay for the damage caused by their own incompetence. After thousands of people withheld bill payments, the state ordered Con Ed to repay ratepayers. The way that worked was by building solidarity from myriad organizations— senior groups, tenant orgs, all kinds of pressure was brought to bear. Eventually, thousands and thousands of people were withholding a portion of their bills.
This is a workers’ action and this is an action in solidarity with Black and Brown communities— this racist pipeline has been situated in communities already suffering from disproportionate exposure to environmental toxins. It begins in Brownsville Brooklyn, a community with incredibly high asthma rates that has been hideously affected by COVID. The Brownsville community begins the pipeline fight that continues its way through Bed Stuy and Bushwick, ending in Greenpoint.
Please join this grassroots opposition to a UK-based global corporation seeking to eke out its last dollar (from our pockets) before their planet-killing fossil fuel is banned. If we succeed in having the PSC rule against some or all of the gas expansion provisions in the pending agreement, we will have global energy companies shaking in their boots.
Please join our fight and share this with your networks. This is not just a New York City fight. The fight against the capitalist monster destroying the planet is global.
Our website with details and the pledge to strike can be found here: https://www.nonbkpipeline.org/strike
Margot Spindelman is the print edition designer of Hard Crackers and a member of the No North Brooklyn Pipeline Coalition.