New Discrimination Complaint Accuses National Grid of Bypassing Safety Laws for Brooklyn Pipeline

Community groups from across Brooklyn, represented by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice and the New York Law School Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic, filed a groundbreaking federal civil rights complaint against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York State Department of Public Service (DPS), and National Grid for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The groups allege that National Grid’s building and operation of a seven-mile-high pressure fracked gas transmission pipeline through predominantly Black and Latinx communities in Brownsville, Ocean Hill, Bushwick, and East Williamsburg discriminates against Black and Latinx communities. The complaint further alleges that DPS and DEC allowed this travesty to happen and failed to consider the disparate health and safety impacts on Black and Latinx communities already burdened with some of the worst health disparities in the City.

The complaint provides new documentation revealed publicly for the first time that National Grid doubled down on discriminating against Black and Latinx communities by violating state and federal law designed to protect the health and safety of the surrounding community, including: 

The Complaint alleges that the New York State Department of Public Service (DPS) was aware of these violations but failed to ensure compliance with pipeline safety rules or conduct an environmental analysis on the impact of the pipeline on communities of color, before approving a rate hike for this project.

The DEC did an environmental analysis for one part of the MRI Project affecting white communities and found no environmental impact, but illegally segmented and failed to review the pipeline that ran through Black and Brown communities.

This is in direct contrast to DEC’s consolidated review of pipeline and energy projects in a white community.

Neither agency considered the disproportionate impact of this project on the Brown and Black communities who live along the pipeline route, in violation of Title VI.

The complaint alleges that these discriminatory failures by New York state agencies disproportionately burden Black and Latinx communities because of the negative health consequences from the pipeline and gas infrastructure’s constant emissions of methane and toxic chemicals that endanger the health, air, soil, and water of the surrounding community.

As DPS is aware, National Grid is responsible for more than 22,000 gas leaks on the Brooklyn backbone system in the last five years, in both new and old parts of the pipeline. In 2020, it failed to fix 1,931 leaks in 2020, ranking second worst in the state. And this year, DPS fined National Grid $21 million for defects in a new pipeline system and for failing to fix longstanding leaks in another system.

“The North Brooklyn Pipeline endangers the air, surface waters, health and safety in Brownsville, Ocean Hill, Bushwick, and East Williamsburg. New York State’s and National Grid’s failure to consider the pipeline’s disproportionate impacts on people of color, and to enforce fundamental safety and environmental rules enforced in white communities, violates Title VI,” said Anjana Malhotra, Senior Attorney at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. “This pipeline continues the illegal and unjust history of dumping toxic infrastructure in Black and Brown communities that Title VI was enacted to prevent.”

The complaint calls for the Biden administration to intervene, investigate these violations, provide the hearing for the community, and have the gas turned off for phases one through four of the pipeline.

The filing was submitted on behalf of Brownsville Green Justice, the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Coalition of Young Professionals, Mi Casa Resiste and the Indigenous Kinship Collective, and sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Energy.

Anjana Malhotra, Senior Attorney, Claudia Wilner, NCLEJ Legal Director, and Leah Lotto, Senior Attorney are the primary attorneys on this matter. It was filed with the New York Law School Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic, directed by Professor Britney Wilson.

Contact: AMY PAUL