For many New Yorkers, the cold winter months can be a hard time to make ends meet. As heating costs soar, families tighten their belts and businesses take a hit to their bottom line. The high price of energy has an impact not just on pocketbooks but on the economy as a whole. High energy costs are frequently cited as a reason that New York businesses are forced to cut jobs or leave the state. Affordable, reliable energy plays a critical role in economic development and job growth.

Increasing access to energy sources such as natural gas will help power the state’s economy and enhance our quality of life. Moving forward, we will need the support of policymakers in Albany to ensure that New York consumers and businesses have access to the energy they need to grow and thrive in the Empire State.

The benefits of natural gas are clear: It combines reliability and affordability, working in concert with renewables such as wind and solar. As the New York Public Service Commission noted last year: “Natural gas can also act as a catalyst for economic growth by attracting businesses to New York. Individuals or corporations considering locating or expanding business in New York will contemplate the availability of gas infrastructure. If infrastructure is not available, those businesses, and the jobs associated with them, may not choose New York.”

Demand for natural gas in New York is at an all-time high, with the state now consuming 5% of the total U.S. natural gas supply. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, consumption in New York is up 12% since 2011, and nationwide demand is projected to increase by 40% over the next 10 years.

But there's a problem: New York’s aging infrastructure is straining to meet current needs and we haven’t added enough pipeline capacity to meet the growing demand.

Across the country, natural gas pipelines provide fuel for a growing number of industries, including domestic manufacturing, plastic and power generation. State and local governments benefit by teaming with private companies to build strong local communities supported by well-paying jobs. Every $100 million of investment in new infrastructure creates, on average, 70 jobs and adds roughly $139 million in value to the economy.

In New York, critical development projects are being stalled. The regulatory process is arduous, and even projects that have been approved by federal regulators and determined to be environmentally safe through extensive review can be scuttled by the state for political reasons. So we’re asking policymakers to do what’s right for all New Yorkers: allow commonsense infrastructure development to move forward.

That’s why a group of community, labor and business leaders from across New York are joining together to promote affordable, reliable energy. This new coalition, New Yorkers for Affordable Energy, will push for the expansion of natural gas service to bring affordable heat and electricity to New York homes and businesses. In the months ahead, our coalition will engage with New Yorkers across the state to lead a spirited dialogue on this critical issue.

Heather C. Briccetti is president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State.

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