Congress’ vote to authorize construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline attracted enormous attention because of the potential impact that exploiting Canadian tar sands crude oil could have on the earth’s climate.

In a famous 2012 New York Times op-ed written by James Hansen, the NASA scientist said that burning tar sands crude would be “game over” for the climate.

“Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history,” stated Hansen.

“If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now,” he continued. “That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control.”

New York’s two senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, voted against the legislation, which the White House reportedly threatened to veto.

Eighteen of New York’s 27 Congressional representatives also voted against authorizing construction.

The nine representatives -including three Democrats- who voted in favor are:

  • Peter King (R), Long Island
  • Carolyn McCarthy (D), Long Island
  • Michael Grimm (R), Staten Island
  • Sean Maloney (D), Orange, Putnam, and part of Westchester and Dutchess counties
  • Christopher Gibson (R), Hudson Valley and Catskills
  • William Owens (D), most of the Adirondack Mountains and Thousand Islands region
  • Richard Hanna (R), central New York, including Binghamton
  • Tom Reed (R), New York border with PA, including shore of Lake Erie
  • Chris Collins (R), western New York

One Congressman from NYC Voted Yes

The only New York City Congressional representative who voted to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline was Michael Grimm of Staten Island.

We contacted Michael Grimm’s Washington, DC office to ask about his support of the pipeline, especially given Staten Island’s experience during Hurricane Sandy and its increasing vulnerability to rising sea levels.

Did Congressman Grimm connect climate change to the burning of fossil fuels, we asked.

Grimm did not respond to our questions. However, his voting record indicates that he tends to be very supportive of oil and gas exploration and development, including here in New York City.

Grimm’s website notes that he introduced a bill authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to allow for the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the New York portion of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Gateway includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The pipeline in Gateway, also known as the Rockaway pipeline, is now nearing completion. According to Grimm’s website, “the construction of the [Rockaway] pipeline will create hundreds of local construction jobs, generate approximately $265 million in construction activity, and lower the cost of energy by bringing clean, affordable energy to the residents of New York City.”

Grimm’s bill clearing the way for construction of the Rockaway Pipeline was also supported by Senator Charles Schumer, along with the Bloomberg administration.


  • karen orlando

    The pipeline’s construction may be nearing completion but there has been a snag with the HDD under Riis park and the pipe has been stuck for more than a month now while Williams tries to figure out a way to move it. Senator Schumer may have supported Grimm’s bill however he never did so publically and the bill called for more than the National Park Service having the authority to grant a permit for the right of way through Riis. The more controversial aspect of the bill was the aboveground part of the pipeline, the metering station, which is being built in historic hangars in Floyd Bennett Field also part of Gateway National Recreation Area. The pipe is buried and results in zero loss of public space. The same cannot be said for the metering station.

  • Sarah Crean

    Thanks a lot for the construction update on the Rockaway pipeline Karen. Regarding Senator Schumer’s support for Grimm’s bill authorizing the pipeline’s construction in Gateway, Mayor Bloomberg specifically mentions the support in the following statement: the

  • Sarah Crean
  • karen orlando

    Yes. I remember that press release from the mayor when the bill passed. When Schumer sponsored it is anyone’s guess. Perhaps on September 21 or 22nd as it was passed? According to the congressional record the only names attached to the bill are Grimm, Meeks and Turner.

    The record on the bill says this about September when the bill moved: “Committee on Energy and Natural Resources was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 2606 , to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to allow the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the Gateway National Recreation Area, and the bill was then passed, after agreeing to the following amendment proposed thereto:” Pryor (for Bingaman) Amendment No. 2869, in the nature of a substitute.

    So then Bingaman’s name is there but not Schumers. No doubt he played a part but where and when there is no record of except for Bloomberg’s press release.