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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appears to be at cross purposes with himself when it comes to natural gas.

In an editorial published Aug. 31, the New York Post said he is putting more pressure on National Grid to sign up new customers in sections of Brooklyn, Long Island and Queens. The Post wrote that Mr. Cuomo has directed the Department of Public Service to “broaden its investigation” of National Grid and is threatening to “find another franchisee.”

In May, the state denied a water-quality permit for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project. The Williams natural gas pipeline would be constructed underwater through the Raritan and New York bays. The state Department of Environmental Conservation said the pipeline would imperil the quality of water at these points.

 

“National Grid and Williams Cos., its construction partner, insist a 23.5-mile conduit is essential to address shortages and meet growing demand,” according to an Aug. 27 story published by Crain’s New York Business. “Environmentalists disputed the need for the project and pointed to environmental dangers for the 17-mile section that would run underwater.”

National Grid informed state authorities that the pipeline is necessary to expand its services. When this permit was denied, the company began declining to connect new customers.

“National Grid gave months of warning that it would need to impose the moratorium if fresh supplies weren’t ensured,” the Post wrote in its editorial. “Con Ed did the same in advance of its recent new-biz moratorium in most of Westchester, which was also prompted in good part by the nixing of new pipelines. This is the point of the yearslong green war on pipelines: You can’t burn gas or oil you can’t get.

“But would-be consumers are, of course, furious. Which leaves Cuomo and like-minded pols blaming the utilities. Hence the gov’s ‘broadened investigation’ — which is supposed to find, what? That National Grid doesn’t want more customers? Much of the public eats it up when pols bash utilities. But it won’t change the facts. Give the franchise to another company, and it still won’t be able to conjure fuel out of the air.”

The Cuomo administration has adopted a bizarre approach to natural gas. Many New Yorkers take advantage of its financial and environmental benefits over other fossil fuels.

But the administration banned fracking in 2014, compelling suppliers to continue transporting it here from out of state. This was a dismal decision as New York is blessed with an abundance of natural gas lying underneath the Marcellus Shale of its southern tier. We could get as much natural gas as necessary to fill increased demand throughout the state, and the economic rewards would be tremendous.

But the governor put the kibosh on extracting our own natural gas, and he’s now cut off additional supplies. Curiously, he’s angry that National Grid won’t sign up new customers who need this extra fuel.

 

We support Mr. Cuomo’s goal of moving the state toward more renewable energy. But this will take time, and New Yorkers still need dependable sources of power to provide basic living needs.

Mr. Cuomo is perturbed that some senior citizens and low-income families may be without heat as temperatures drop. But he’s the one thwarting Con Ed and National Grid from delivering the natural gas they need to perform this function.

“The United States is now the world’s top energy producer,” according to the Post. “There’s no reason for any kind of power or fuel shortage in New York, but the Con Ed and National Grid moratoriums are merely a taste of what’s coming.”

Mr. Cuomo created this crisis, and he shouldn’t be pointing fingers at other parties. He has only himself to blame.

Thousands of New Yorkers are being denied gas service while a battle continues over a proposed offshore pipeline.

National Grid has a backlog of 2,600 applications for new or expanded service in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island that will only be processed if the state approves the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a spokeswoman said. The project, proposed by the Oklahoma-based energy company Williams, includes a 23-mile pipeline through New York Harbor, from New Jersey to the Rockaways.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation denied permits for the project twice, most recently in May, because construction would pollute the water with mercury, copper and other contaminants. Williams resubmitted its application days after the denial, and the DEC has another year to approve or deny it.

Since the most recent denial, National Grid has declared a moratorium in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, saying its current infrastructure has reached capacity and it cannot fulfill new requests for gas hookups without the Williams Pipeline. 

 

But local officials aren’t convinced there is a supply issue, saying the utility is just using the moratorium to pressure the state to approve the pipeline, which Williams had hoped would be ready by winter 2020. The state’s Department of Public Service is currently investigating the decision to stop processing new requests, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday directed the department to “consider alternatives to National Grid as franchisee for some or all of the areas it currently serves” if it cannot provide service.

Meanwhile, new homeowners, small businesses and building managers don’t know what to do without gas service. 

“It’s unfair that the citizens of the area that National Grid services are being punished for a feud between Gov. Cuomo and National Grid,” said Steven Feldman, who is purchasing a house in Woodmere, Long Island, and needs to replace an old oil boiler. 

“I already had natural gas coming into the house for cooking for the stove and I wanted to just increase my service load so I could purchase a new boiler that would be energy efficient, that would save me money as well as be better for the environment,” he explained. Feldman, 30, also brought in a contractor to see if there were other options but was told there weren’t alternatives to oil or gas.

James Snook, the project manager for a newly constructed six-unit condo in Carroll Gardens, questioned why National Grid didn’t warn him earlier that there would be a gas shortage. He put in his application for gas service a year ago, but wasn’t told about the moratorium until recently when he followed up after the completion of the building. 

“I have gas boilers, I have gas stoves, I have a gas hot-water heater, I have gas dryers; all of these were installed under the premise that you had my application over a year ago to provide me with gas,” he said. “They should have told builders when they put their applications in that they weren’t going to be able to have gas.”

Snook, 67, added that he worked for Con Edison for decades and “never heard of such a thing as not providing service.”

Dozens of other residents and business owners have reported similar situations to local officials, and based on National Grid’s backlog of applications, Snook and Feldman are among thousands of New York residents and businesses being denied gas service.

National Grid insists that adding additional service without the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project “would pose a risk to the integrity of our system and compromise natural gas use for our existing firm customers.”

The company has purchased additional gas supplies on the short-term spot market, but it says that “is not a sustainable operational solution for providing reliable and long-term natural gas service to customers.

“When we sign customers up, we are committing to providing them with an uninterrupted supply of natural gas. Without NESE, we can’t make that firm commitment to new customers or those looking to expand their current service,” the company said in a statement.

The pipeline is sharply opposed by a coalition of environmental groups that have protested it for years. And possible environmental threats are a concern for some of the homeowners requesting new gas service.

“I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt the environment, but there has to be some sort of compromise that will make it not harmful to the environment as well as beneficial to the consumer,” Feldman said. 

Ever since May of this year, the utility company National Grid has had a moratorium on new natural gas customers in certain areas around New York City. The reason? They don’t have enough gas in the pipeline to serve more people. This is a problem that’s gone largely ignored in the media and you rarely hear any politicians talking about. However, one CBS New York reporter finally caught up with Governor Andrew Cuomo as he was dedicating a new bridge construction project this week and put the question to him. In an attempt to answer, let’s just say he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory.

SEE ALSO: The Media’s no good, very bad week (and what’s coming next)

“What are you going to do about National Grid, which is withholding gas hook-ups from businesses, from people?” Kramer asked. “Governor, I wonder what you say to people who can’t open their apartments and their homes because they turned off the gas to do renovations and now National Grid won’t let them turn it back on? To a Chinese American society in Bensonhurst that can’t provide meals?”

“If you’re saying that there are current gas clients who are being denied gas, that’s a health and safety violation,” Cuomo said. “No utility company should be doing that.”

When pressed again by Kramer as to what he’s going to do about it, Cuomo said, “The Public Service Commission should … You tell me where and we will have the Public Service Commission investigate.”

When told of the problems in Farmingdale, Bensonhurst and Park Slope, Cuomo said, “I’m not aware of any situation where an existing client couldn’t get gas.

You’ll notice that the Governor is only answering one part of a larger question. (In fairness to Cuomo, the reporter cited examples that apply to that answer.) They’re talking about people who had existing accounts but had the gas turned off for renovations, repairs and such and now National Grid won’t turn on their gas supply again. This is a valid question because if they already had an account and no new services have been added, there should still be enough gas for them

But he’s not addressing the larger issue. There are construction projects either planned or underway that are hanging under a cloud. National Grid won’t approve any new customer accounts. Cuomo doesn’t want to talk about that part of it because at least in part, he helped create the problem.

This is something I wrote about back in May. The idea that anyone in America should be short of natural gas these days is kind of insane. We’re practically drowning in it. But what we lack is the infrastructure to get it everywhere it’s needed. New York sits on massive natural gas deposits, but can’t access them because Cuomo put a moratorium on all drilling. And the pipelines bringing natural gas to the Big Apple from Pennsylvania (the nearest convenient source) are old and too small.

Requests for new pipelines to be approved and expand the natural gas transport levels have been in the works for years, but Democrats (including Cuomo) have managed to shut them down because they’re saving the Earth or something. Now the natural gas chickens have come home to roost. And if Cuomo doesn’t get a new pipeline approved fast, there will be no new construction around the Big Apple that can’t operate entirely on electricity. (And even that’s going to become scarce in a few years at the rate we’re going.)

It would be nice to see CBS go back for another bite at the apple and ask Cuomo about these larger issues and long-term challenges. Sadly, the only solutions he could propose will go against his liberal values, so New York City can just do without, I suppose.

 

Do New York politicians want to phase out the use of fossil fuels — or not?

On Friday, Assemblyman William Colton (D-B’klyn) blasted National Grid for turning away new Brooklyn natural gas service customers.

Without a gas pipeline recently nixed by Team Cuomo, the company says, it won’t have enough gas to fill new orders.

Blame Cuomo when the gas goes out
Colton and allied pols insist (dubiously) that National Grid can find other sources of gas. But why is he suddenly demanding greater use of the fuel?

After all, Colton cosponsored the state’s “Green New Deal,” which aims to do away with fossil fuels, like natural gas, and shift to a “carbon-free” economy. He should be overjoyed that a utility is ending new gas hookups.

The state, by the way, rejected the Williams/Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline to Queens because Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, wants to end fossil fuel use here.

That’s not the official explanation, but Cuomo has turned down other pipelines as well; each time, his folks cite “water quality” issues, because federal law won’t let states kill pipelines (which serve large regions of the country) for any other reason.

Yet their motives are obvious: No pipelines means no gas. That’s the point.

But that infuriates consumers. So pols like Colton point fingers at National Grid for doing what he and his pals . . . demand.

Politicians routinely try to shift blame for the consequences of their actions. But their constituents shouldn’t be fooled. And the Colton-Cuomo crowd should own the problems they’ve caused.

This is no joke. It’s not an “Onion” piece where we’re trying to fool you. In June the New York State legislature passed a horrific “energy” bill that was later signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (see New York Pulls the Trigger, Commits Energy Suicide with New Law). The new law limits carbon dioxide emissions to zero (an impossibility) by 2050. Everyone is now waking up and saying, “Oh crap, what did we just do?” You see, almost everyone in the state uses either fuel oil, natural gas or propane to heat their homes during our exceptionally cold winters. That’s all gone by 2050–no more burning fossil fuels to heat your home. Welcome to the USSR of NY.

Again, we’re not making this up! This is what state officials are saying–not too loud so New Yorkers won’t wake up all at once and realize it. But it is being said–that fossil fuels heating our homes is out in the next couple of decades:

Natural gas utilities, which provide heat to about 60 percent of New York’s homes, are facing an existential crisis as the state seeks dramatic emissions reductions requiring transformative change in the consumption of a fuel once hailed as a cleaner and cheaper alternative to oil, propane and kerosene. Natural gas usage in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors — excluding what’s used at power plants — accounted for roughly 22 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, according to data from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. To meet the state’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050, as called for in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, those emissions must be eliminated. Burning gas to heat homes is unlikely to qualify for offsets, given the availability of alternatives such as geothermal or air-source heat pumps that rely on electricity. That reality poses risks and opportunities for the state’s major gas utilities. What’s more, it requires a major reframing of the state’s policy on natural gas, which currently promotes expanded gas infrastructure. (1)

From Cuomo’s former DEC lackey, Joe Martens:

Many environmental advocates were elated to see the Legislature pass a historic, sweeping climate measure last month after years of inaction. But they also know that there’s a long path ahead to implement New York’s new goals for net zero emissions by 2050. “It’s daunting in a way,” said Joe Martens, a former commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, which will play a crucial role in implementing the emissions cuts. He’s currently head of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance. “It is going to affect every aspect of New Yorkers’ lives — and if it’s implemented successfully the hope is it gets replicated elsewhere,” he said. Heating fuels will have to be virtually eliminated and replaced with electric heat pumps or other non-emitting technology. Diesel trucks and gas cars that the state can control must be phased out. Manufacturers of copper, steel, cement, pulp and aluminum will face higher energy costs and have to find ways to lower emissions or offset them. Renewable energy projects must be built at a pace not yet seen in New York to achieve a 70 percent renewable electricity target by 2030 and eliminate all power-sector emissions by 2040. (2)

We wonder when our fellow New Yorkers will wake up and realize they are so screwed. The real question is, will anyone actually be left in the state by 2050? Our guess is no, IF this idiotic law is not repealed.

(1) POLITICO New York Energy (Jul 31, 2019) – Gas utilities grapple with climate goals

(2) POLITICO New York Energy (Jul 8, 2019) – Climate implementation path

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