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In January, the overt struggle between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and natural gas inundated front page news when New York’s major utility, Con Edison, announced plans to implement a moratorium on new natural gas connections in most of Westchester County. Then, just as the moratorium went into effect on March 15, the state offered up a $250 million Hail-Mary funding plan for clean energy projects aimed at moderating the moratorium’s impact.

The problematic condition of New York’s energy future has been percolating for quite some time. That’s because identifying a silver bullet to address the climate change threat without completely upending our everyday lives is not easy. Cuomo’s attempts to capitalize politically on his enacted solutions has resulted in harmful consequences, as people who live outside New York City are discovering.In 2014, Cuomo imposed a ban on hydraulic fracturing and has since stalled several proposed pipeline projects that would serve natural gas through the state, such as the Constitution, Northern Access and the Williams projects. These decisions stem from the governor’s green agenda and proposals, including his comprehensive statewide plan to make New York’s electricity generation 100% carbon-neutral by 2040, with hopes to eventually eliminate the state’s entire carbon footprint.

The problem with this is that natural gas remains an important part of the climate change solution. As promising as renewables such as solar and wind power are, we are still years away from being able to rely exclusively on these sources and energy innovations still in the research stage. Right now, natural gas is a cleaner and affordable option and to date Cuomo has done all he can to take this important bridge fuel off the table.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are now at their lowest level since 1992 largely facilitated by utilities switch from coal to cleaner natural gas. Cuomo’s policies would frustrate this progress.

Interestingly, the Environmental Defense Fund, a natural ally in Cuomo’s war on carbon, sees the moratorium Con Ed was forced to adopt as a threat to long-term climate change goals. At a hearing last month, EDF’s director of energy market policy said curtailing natural gas use was having “adverse environmental impacts.” Jonathan Peress stressed that “opposing or preventing all pipeline capacity expansion into New York is not an effective climate policy.” In fact, he added that natural gas utilities and pipelines “have an important role to play” in achieving climate goals, specifically in “fostering greenhouse gas reductions."

The plan recently announced by New York regulators — also known as the Westchester Clean Energy Investment Program — does an effective job of appearing like it is solving the moratorium issue, but is simply a deflection from the real access crisis at hand. Among the 50 states, New York ranked fifth in terms of use of natural gas consumption for electric power generation in 2017.

The more the state is denied access to natural gas, the more it will raise electricity rates and deprive the state from a clean energy source. Rejecting job-creating work in pipeline construction and putting upward pressure on home heating costs is certainly not in the interest of people in New York of limited means. Not to mention that this $250 million dollars will be directly funded by taxpayers who would be better served by policies and private investments that facilitate the use of affordable and clean natural gas rather than expensive programs offered up as a crisis mitigation plan.

People in the Northeast will continue to rely on natural gas. Business in the region will need natural gas to operate competitively. But policies like those championed by Cuomo deliberately deny residents and businesses in the region access to an energy source that is abundant, affordable, safe and clean.

McDonald, founder and president of African American Environmentalist Association, which is dedicated to protecting the environment and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement.

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