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All-out effort to get gas pipeline approved

The proposed 23-mile Williams Pipeline expansion would run

The proposed 23-mile Williams Pipeline expansion would run offshore through New York Harbor, from New Jersey to the Rockaways. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Daily Point

Pipeline battle continues

Approval of a new pipeline to bring more natural gas to New York is caught up in a brutal fight among utilities, developers and environmentalists. 

National Grid says the construction of what is known as the Williams pipeline is badly needed to meet natural gas needs on Long Island. The company refuses to hook up new homes and businesses until the construction is approved, and more than 2,500 applicants have been rejected this year. Even proposed development at Belmont Park could be affected. 

But now National Grid is really taking a hostage in this fight to sway public sentiment. 

The generator at the Seaford Fire Department is more than 50 years old and cannot power the entire station, a serious problem if a hurricane or other emergency knocks out power. So State Sen. John Brooks got Seaford a $300,000 state grant to install a new generator.

Unfortunately, that would require a bigger gas line than the department currently has, and National Grid will not approve a replacement. So the new generator is not in place, the firehouse is still vulnerable, and Brooks says it is not the only firehouse in that predicament.

Brooks said the Seaford firehouse is one factor that prompted him and Long Island’s other five Democratic senators to send a letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation last week asking that the pipeline be approved. But Brooks doubts National Grid is actually facing a gas shortage. 

Whether there is a real shortage of gas already or National Grid is just machinating to force the state’s hand on the pipeline is something Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has asked the state’s Public Service Commission to investigate, and a lot is riding on the answer.In a radio interview last week, Cuomo said, “If they’re extorting people, and wrongfully turning off gas service to homes to create political pressure, I’m not negotiating over that. That’s extortion. That’s a crime.”

Brooks said if the Seaford gas hookup isn’t approved, the fire department could eventually lose its grant for the generator.

And at that point, National Grid might find itself in a much hotter political scrape than it intended, with no way to put out the fire.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

(M)ad about you

President Donald Trump and his reelection campaign are the biggest game around in political social media advertising. 

A surprising part of that spending is how much of it is in solidly Democratic and certainly-not-a-swing-state New York. 

The New York Post reported this week that Trump’s campaign has invested nearly $1 million this year in Facebook and Google ads directed at New Yorkers, enough that the blue state is the No. 4 target of the campaign’s digital spending. 

This strategy is often used to fundraise and build lists to gin up more fundraising, as can be seen in a review of the material in Facebook’s political ad archive. 

The ads targeted more toward New Yorkers and other big-donor states like California and Texas include pleas to take an “Official Trump Approval Poll,” donate to “the OFFICIAL Impeachment Defense Fund,” and other bids to get people’s emails or dollars. 

The ads also include a healthy dose of scorn for the other side and a sense that Republicans are embattled and Democratic enemies are out to get them — the kind of message that might resonate with GOP voters in New York. The ads trumpet “Don't let Democrats and the Fake News Media silence YOU!” and “Democrats think we are DESPICABLE!”

The ads highlight fears of socialism and underscore a sense of separation: “Democrats are TOTALLY out of touch with the American people,” one says. 

It’s the kind of message that New York Republicans have often relied on when under Democratic ascendancy. See the state party Twitter account’s response last week to a “Saturday Night Live” skit that poked fun at upstate apple picking. 

“Whether it's the lame stream media networks or NY's elected officials, the snotty, arrogant, and elitist attitude toward rural America is downright shameful,” said the GOP post, taking a big old bite out of the apple.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

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