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By Jon Campbell / Gannett New York
Posted Dec 18, 2019 at 5:00 AM
CONKLIN — Dan Fitzsimmons was convinced the key to his family’s financial future was resting a mile beneath the surface.

Major energy companies were willing to pay landowners life-altering sums of money for the oil-and-gas rights to their property, including Fitzsimmons’ 185 acres in rural Broome County.

That is, they were willing to pay — until a fateful meeting in Albany turned New York’s Great Gas Rush into the Great Gas Rush That Wasn’t.

Tuesday marked five years since Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration first said it would ban large-scale hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method used to free gas from underground rock formations like the Marcellus Shale that stretches across the Southern Tier and Catskills.

New York’s decision made it the first shale-bearing state to back a ban. And it put an end to a remarkable six-year period of debate, study and protest, where activists, landowners and gas companies clashed everywhere from small-town board meetings in the Southern Tier to the halls of power in Albany.

The announcement — slowly unveiled at the state Capitol during a two-hour meeting of Cuomo’s cabinet a month after he was re-elected — was a huge victory for environmentalists and activists who galvanized across the state to fight for a ban.

They warned the chemicals injected deep underground in the fracking process, as well as the associated boost in truck traffic and industrial activity, had the potential to wreak havoc on the state’s pristine waters, air and landscape.

This is the story of how a single governmental decision five years ago has helped shape energy policy in New York and continues to affect the landowners, activists, regulators and energy industry representatives who spent years working to make their case.

‘ABSOLUTELY’ THE RIGHT DECISION, REGULATOR SAYS

Today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proudly touts New York’s fracking ban as a key plank of his environmental bona fides.

It wasn’t always clear it would work out that way.

While he was campaigning for governor in 2010, Cuomo sounded like someone open to fracking’s potential as a source of domestic fuel, releasing a 2010 policy book that suggested it could provide a “badly needed boost to the economy of the Southern Tier.”

Nine months after taking office the next year, the Department of Environmental Conservation issued a draft review that would have allowed large-scale fracking to proceed with strict environmental protections, including an outright ban on drilling in the New York City watershed in the Catskills.

At the same time, the DEC commissioned a study that found fracking would create anywhere from 6,000 to 37,000 jobs in New York.

In 2012 and 2013 — with Cuomo seeking re-election — the administration floated a plan that would have allowed fracking to proceed on a limited basis, just a few wells in communities that welcomed it.

But a small pilot program wouldn’t have provided the economic benefit the Southern Tier craved, said Joe Martens, who led the fracking review as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

And it would have enraged the activists and environmentalists who embraced a new mantra: Not one well.

“On a small scale, it wasn’t going to have a benefit to the communities that a full-scale program would have,” Martens recalled this month. “So what’s the point? It was a bit of a trial balloon, but in the end, I just don’t think it made sense.”

The Cuomo administration dropped the idea and embraced a ban, unveiling its decision on Dec. 17, 2014. At the time, Martens made the case that drilling wouldn’t be economical because the state’s environmental protections would have taken a third of the Marcellus off the table.

Today, Martens is more convinced than ever it was the right decision, calling it “one of the most important decisions the state has ever made on the environmental front.”

In June, Cuomo and the state Legislature approved an ambitious new climate-change law that promises to fundamentally reshape the way the state produces and uses power.

By 2030, the state must produce 75% of its power from renewable sources. By 2050, the law requires the state to cut its emissions levels by 85% from 1990 levels and offset the rest with green projects.

Had fracking been allowed, it could have hindered the state’s new climate goals, said Martens, who now heads the NY Offshore Wind Alliance.

“It was a really tough decision at the time but in retrospect, I think it was absolutely the right one,” he said. “I feel better about it all the time.”

ACTIVISTS STILL HOUNDING CUOMO

Long before Cuomo embraced a fracking ban, there was an army of activists and environmentalists who were hellbent on getting him there.

Anti-fracking groups sprung up in communities across the state, united by their desire to convince Cuomo and local governments to ban fracking, which they saw as a continued threat to the state’s land, air and — perhaps most importantly — water.

At the same time, environmental organizations in Albany worked the halls of the Capitol and the DEC, warning them of fracking’s detriments.

Together, they peppered Cuomo’s office with letters and phone calls. They flooded the DEC with more than 200,000 public comments. They protested by the thousands in the Capitol and outside Cuomo’s State of the State addresses, often with help from stars like Mark Ruffalo, Yoko Ono and the late Pete Seeger.

And they followed the governor to countless press conferences, fundraisers and even his polling location, a constant presence urging him to prevent a drill from ever hitting the ground.

“We started to see these huge rallies because people were angry,” said Katherine Nadeau, then a program director with Environmental Advocates of New York.

“You’re talking about changing their way of life and threatening water quality, their house — people are going to take that very seriously, and they did. People came out in droves.”

Martens said the constant pressure from both advocates and opponents for fracking “wasn’t fun” to deal with.

“It wore me down emotionally a bit,” he said. “But it was all part of the process. People felt very strongly about it on both sides, frankly, and I was very sympathetic to both sides.”

Since the fracking ban was announced, anti-fracking activists have continued to organize against any projects that advance fossil fuels — pipelines and gas-fueled power plants, mostly — all around the state.

They’ve had plenty of success: The Cuomo administration has rejected several gas-fueled projects in the years since the ban was unveiled.

Perhaps fittingly, anti-fracking activists will celebrate the five-year anniversary of the ban Tuesday by protesting outside a private Cuomo campaign fundraiser in New York City, where they will demand the state reject all new fossil-fuel infrastructure in the state and accelerate the shift to renewable energy.

“It’s a very natural extension of the fracking campaign,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast region director for Food & Water Watch, a national group that was very involved in New York’s push for a fracking ban.

“We really can’t be adding any new fossil fuel infrastructure to the mix at a minimum. That’s kind of a first step and then you have to do everything else.”

LANDOWNERS WONDER: WHAT NOW?

Anti-fracking activists weren’t the only ones who banded together.

When gas company representatives blanketed the Southern Tier in 2007 and 2008, offering up thousands of dollars per acre and royalty payments to lease oil-and-gas rights to property, landowners went on to form coalitions to bolster their negotiating power.

The coalitions quickly became massive, representing landowners that held around 650,000 acres of property across the Marcellus region — much of which was along the border of Pennsylvania, where large-scale fracking has long been allowed.

Those coalitions became the loudest voice in favor of fracking, hopeful that natural-gas exploration could be the key to financial salvation in the struggling Southern Tier.

They held out that hope until the very moment Cuomo’s administration announced the ban, convinced he would allow a limited pilot program before eventually opening the gates further.

“There were many people who were blindsided — our local politicians included,” said Scott Kurkoski, an attorney for the Joint Landowners Coalition, an umbrella group that included dozens of smaller coalitions.

“People who were in touch with the governor’s office on a regular basis were blindsided. No one knew.”

Two coalitions struck early deals with gas companies, including a coalition in the Broome County town of Deposit that paid landowners $110 million — $2,411 an acre — without a single drill ever hitting the ground.

But most held out in hopes of a better deal, confident that New York couldn’t deny the economic upside of fracking.

Today, landowners like Fitzsimmons — president of the Joint Landowners Coalition — are forced to confront what could have been and ponder what’s next

“Believe me, the thought goes through my mind — sell it and move, go someplace else like Pennsylvania where you can do something,” said Fitzsimmons, whose “Friends of Natural Gas” sign still hangs from his red barn.

“But you’d have nothing. The property values are so low here.”

The Southern Tier, long one of the state’s slowest economies, continues to struggle.

As Cuomo took office in 2011, the Binghamton metropolitan area had about 122,000 people with a job or looking for work, according to the state Department of Labor.

By last month, that number dropped 13% to 106,300, continuing a decline that dates back to at least 1990.

It’s a similar story in the nearby Elmira area, which saw its labor force drop from 41,100 to 34,900 over the same time period — a 15% decline.

The day the ban was announced, Cuomo said figuring out how to boost the Southern Tier economy remained a “big challenge for us.”

“I’ve never had anyone say to me: I believe fracking is great,” he said at the time. “What I get is: I have no alternative to fracking ... and I own a farm and I have to pay a mortgage and I have to pay these incredible property taxes and there’s no economic opportunity.”

GAS INDUSTRY GIVES UP ON NEW YORK

The natural-gas industry, meanwhile, has all but given up on New York.

XTO, the gas company that paid Deposit landowners $110 million to lease their mineral rights, had an option to extend those leases a few years ago.

The company declined. The leases still show up on title searches when a property sells, but the company — since acquired by Exxon — has been releasing property owners who simply call and ask, according to Joanne McGibney, a local realtor.

As large-scale fracking has expanded in other states, traditional natural-gas drilling — still allowed in New York — has steadily declined in the state, dropping from 20.4 billion cubic feet in 2014 to 10.6 billion cubic feet last year, according to the DEC.

New York consumes about 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year, making it reliant on fracked gas produced from other states.

“We’re simply not allowing our own citizens to produce it,” said Karen Moreau, New York executive director for the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group.

“We’re taking it from our neighbors next door, and those communities are benefiting, while our severely economically challenged Southern Tier hasn’t been allowed to.”

Moreau said she still believes its possible New York reverses course on its fracking ban, but she said it would likely take an energy crisis or something similar to force a change.

It would also likely require a change in governor.

Cuomo was succinct when he was asked in 2015 whether he would ever consider lifting the ban.

“I would never,” he said.

HOUSTON — A decade ago, natural gas was heralded as the fuel of the future. In shale fields across the country, hydraulic fracturing uncorked a lucrative new source of supply. Energy giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron snapped up smaller companies to get in on the action, and investors poured billions of dollars into export terminals to ship gas to China and Europe.

The boom has given way to a bust. A glut of cheap natural gas is wreaking havoc on the energy industry, and companies are shutting down drilling rigs, filing for bankruptcy protection and slashing the value of shale fields they had acquired in recent years.

Chevron, the country’s second-largest oil and gas giant after Exxon, said on Tuesday that it would write down $10 billion to $11 billion in assets, mostly shale gas holdings in Appalachia and a planned liquefied natural gas export facility in Canada. The move was an energy company’s clearest acknowledgment yet that the industry has been far too optimistic about the prospects for natural gas.

While cheap natural gas continues to take market share from coal in the electricity sector, supply of the fuel has far outstripped demand. As a result, once-booming gas fields in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas have become quiet backwaters. The number of gas rigs deployed nationwide has dropped to 132, from 184 last year.

“In the short term the gas market is oversupplied and is likely to remain so for the next few years,” said Andy Brogan, oil and gas global sector leader at EY, the firm formerly known as Ernst & Young. “It’s a cyclical business, and we’re at the bottom of the cycle.”

Some analysts said the gas slump could persist for some time because the cost of wind and solar energy has tumbled in recent years, making those renewable sources of energy more attractive to power producers. And while gas exports are climbing, growing production of the fuel in Qatar, Russia and Australia threatens to drive down international prices over the next few years.

Nowhere are the declining fortunes of natural gas more in evidence than in Appalachia, where the Marcellus field centered in central and western Pennsylvania was once viewed as the most promising in North America. With gas prices slashed nearly in half from a year ago, the number of drilling rigs operating in Pennsylvania has dropped to 24, from 47, over the last 12 months. EQT, one of the premier producers in the Marcellus, recently cut nearly a quarter of its work force, eliminating 196 positions.

That is a far cry from the picture Chevron painted when it acquired Atlas Energy almost exactly 10 years ago for $3.2 billion, while assuming $1.1 billion in debt, cementing its foothold in southwestern Pennsylvania. At the time, George L. Kirkland, then Chevron’s vice chairman, predicted that the “strong growth potential of the asset base and its proximity to premier natural gas markets make this targeted acquisition a compelling investment.”

Other energy companies have also acknowledged losses, though not to the same extent. Exxon Mobil wrote down the value of its American natural gas assets by $2.5 billion in recent years after buying the natural gas producer XTO Energy for more than $30 billion in 2010.

Gas producers have struggled in part because New York and other Northeastern states have made it harder to build pipelines to transport the fuel. But analysts point to a far bigger problem: The industry is just producing too much gas. In some oil fields where gas bubbles to the surface with crude, it has become cheaper for producers to burn the gas than gather it and send it to market.

“Natural gas is in the tank,” said Patrick Montalban, president of Montalban Oil & Gas Operations. “We’re looking at a project right now of over 200 wells in Montana that are for sale, but they are uneconomic. Not only are the wells uneconomic, the gathering of the gas is uneconomic.”

American natural gas inventories are about 19 percent higher than a year ago, according to the Energy Department. The government estimates that the average spot price for natural gas will be $2.45 per million British thermal units in 2020, about 14 cents below this year’s average. At its peak in 2008, the benchmark price topped $10 per million British thermal units.

Exports of liquefied natural gas are rising sharply, but future profits may be meager. S&P Global Platts warned this week that European gas prices could slide next year, reducing how much money United States exporters can earn.

Moody’s Investor Service predicted that several gas exploration and production companies active in the Marcellus will face heightened financial risks over the next three years because of the debt they have accumulated. Between 2021 and 2023, companies such as Antero Resources, CNX Resources, EQT and Gulfport Energy will need to refinance between $3.5 billion and $4 billion in debt. All told, the producers have to repay lenders more than $12 billion during that period.

“If low natural gas prices persist beyond 2020,” the Moody’s report said, “companies may need to reduce debt to maintain compliance with financial covenants or amend covenant levels.”

Many smaller companies have sought bankruptcy protection or indicated that they could go out of business. Shares of Chesapeake Energy, the Oklahoma-based champion of shale gas drilling, traded at more than $60 in 2008. Now they sell for less than a dollar. Chesapeake warned in a recent securities filing that if prices remained low and it was unable to comply with the conditions of its debt, “there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.”

Such pessimism is widespread.

“We expect the trend of write-downs to continue as price outlooks are adjusted down,” said Tom Ellacott, senior vice president at Wood Mackenzie, a research firm.

Of course, low natural gas prices have been a boon to users of the fuel, especially electricity utilities, which are increasingly replacing coal-fired plants with ones that use gas. Gas is expected to have provided about 37 percent of electricity produced in the United States this year, up from 34 percent in 2018, according to the Energy Department. But renewables are climbing even faster.

In a recent report, Morgan Stanley estimated that demand for natural gas would grow for a few years but fall 13 percent between 2020 and 2030 as utilities increasingly switch to wind and solar power. Future regulations or a carbon tax put in place by lawmakers worried about climate change could accelerate the transition to renewables.

Exports offer perhaps the greatest growth potential for American natural gas. But even as companies build more liquefied natural gas export terminals across the Gulf Coast, competition from Russia and Qatar is intensifying and analysts fear there could soon be a global glut of gas.

“There is significant uncertainty as to the scale and durability of demand for imported L.N.G. in developing markets around the world,” the International Energy Agency said in a recent report. Considering the high cost of processing and transporting liquefied natural gas, the report added, “competition from other fuels and technologies, whether in the form of coal or renewables, loom large.”

Among the many subplots to emerge from recent impeachment hearings, one, in particular, might have been unexpected: fracking. In recent testimony to House lawmakers, Fiona Hill, John Bolton’s former direct report at the National Security Council and the White House’s former top expert on Russia, reported that Russian propaganda was working to undermine the use of hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, in the United States.

Such news was easy to overlook amidst a steady stream of bombshells from the hearings, but lawmakers should take note. After all, fracking has been - and continues to be - an essential part of America’s energy renaissance and an indispensable tool in ensuring energy security.

Why is Russia so interested in American natural gas production? In her testimony, Hill explained that Putin “saw American fracking as a great threat to Russian interests” and that a fracking ban would “play into strengthening Putin’s hands.” That’s because natural gas supplies are central to European economic markets. Not only do more abundant gas supplies make the U.S. stronger, but they make us more capable of supplanting Russia as a key supplier of European gas. Russia desires neither of those outcomes, mainly since it has used its largest gas company, Gazprom, as a weapon of political influence in Europe for years to significant effect.

The evidence of Russian meddling in the fracking debate is clear. For example, a 2017 report by the Director of National Intelligence, drafted in coordination with the CIA, FBI, and NSA–ODNI, found that “as the threat of American energy continues to grow, so does the Kremlin’s incentive to influence energy operations in Europe and the United States.” The report also noted that RT, the “Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet,” is engaged in an anti-fracking campaign in the U.S. as a way to combat American gas production and the threat it poses to Russia’s projection of power in Europe through Gazprom.

A 2018 majority staff report by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology found that more than 4 percent of tweets from IRA, the agency behind Russia’s cyber campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, were “related to energy or environmental issues, a significant portion of content when compared to the 8 percent of IRA tweets that were related to the election in the U.S.”

The campaign isn’t a new one, of course. Hill reported in her testimony that Putin made it “very clear” he saw American fracking as a threat as far back as 2011, the same time as RT first tweeted about fracking. In the years since, RT has unleashed a barrage of critical tweets about U.S. fracking, calling American shale gas “another Ponzi fraud” in 2013; describing shale gas as a “bubble about to bust” in 2015; declaring in 2015 that the shale boom would be over by year’s end; writing in 2018 that shale’s “glory days are numbered;” and announcing in August that “time is almost up for U.S. shale industry.”

Indeed, RT is obsessed with American fracking, it even produced its anti-fracking documentary and celebrated New York’s fracking ban, saying, “New York is now leading by example.”

Degrading America’s energy production is clearly on the minds of Kremlin officials. There is bipartisan agreement here. It was on the mind of Hillary Clinton in 2014 when she revealed in a speech that “We [the State Department] were even up against phony environmental groups” battling American natural gas pipelines and fracking and that “a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.”

That same year, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, then-NATO Secretary-General, reported, “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

The evidence speaks for itself: Russia is heavily involved in attempts to undermine U.S. fracking. Hopefully, Fiona Hill’s description of this in impeachment hearings will be sufficient evidence for lawmakers to call attention to this interference in U.S. policy decisions on energy security and economic growth.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was correct when she said that “Putin must be held accountable – not rewarded” for Russia’s interference in America’s politics. Here’s hoping Warren and the rest of Congress acknowledge that banning the practice of fracking to produce oil and gas would diminish America’s security and give the Kremlin precisely what it wants.

Binghamton, NY -

George Phillips, American History Teacher and Candidate for Congress issued the following statement on impeachment:

"This truly is a sad day for our Republic. It would be impossible by any objective standard to find treason or serious crimes in the President's conduct that would warrant removal from office under the intent laid out by our Founding Fathers.

It is also sad that Congressman Brindisi an attorney by trade who is well versed in the concept of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt plans to support this travesty to justice and the United States Constitution.

Brindisi has squarely aligned himself to the radical national left who is funneling millions of dollars into his campaign efforts."

Sincerely,

 

George Phillips
Candidate for Congress (NY 22)

By Mark Harrington
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @MHarringtonNews
Updated November 26, 2019 3:13 PM

National Grid on Monday agreed to lift a crippling moratorium on new gas hookups and pay a $36 million fine after negotiations with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo through the weekend in a move that rescinds, for now, the governor’s threat to revoke the company’s state operating certificate, while also addressing short- and long-term supply constraints.

As part of the deal announced Monday morning, the state will also appoint a monitor paid for by National Grid to oversee its operations for two years, to review its compliance with the pact, which was finalized this morning.

The complex deal, reached within a two-week deadline imposed by the governor, commits the U.K.-based company to a series of "short-term supply mechanisms" to more than meet demand for existing and new customers for roughly the next two years. Those measures will allow National Grid to restore service to "any customers that it had refused and grant all pending applications," according to a joint statement by the company and the state.

At the same time, the $36 million penalty will "compensate customers adversely affected by the moratorium," including businesses whose projects have been stalled or relocated and home customers who were forced to turn to alternate heating methods, such as temporary propane hookups. Of the $36 million, the bulk — about $20 million — will go to climate initiatives such as renewables and to fund startups in the green energy field, an administration official said, while about $8 million will go to getting customers to reduce their gas use, and about $7 million to mitigate customer impacts. The $36 million will be paid by National Grid shareholders, not ratepayers, company spokeswoman Karen Young said.

Cuomo in a statement called the deal a "victory for customers," saying the company will present options to its long-term supply shortage to customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island to let them choose the best way forward for their communities. The agreement calls for at least four public hearings on those options, including one each in Suffolk and Nassau.

"Today it was made clear that we will not allow any business — big or small — to extort New Yorkers in order to advance its own interests," Cuomo said.

National Grid over the next three months will review options including its originally planned new pipeline, renewable energy sources, and liquid natural gas facilities, among others, then present them to customers at public meetings, State Sen. Kevin S. Parker, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Telecom, said in a statement. Long-term options must be in place by the fall of 2021.

The agreement means nearly 4,000 businesses, homes and other potential customers who have been denied new natural gas service for months will be processed and provided service in coming weeks and months, just at the start of the winter heating season. Residential and small-business customers must be contacted within 30 days to start the process of providing service; larger customers within 45 days, the administration official said.

National Grid New York president John Bruckner said the company "worked hard" to devise the list of supply alternatives. "With this agreement, we will present options for long-term supply solutions that ensure our customers have the service they require and desire,” Bruckner said in a statement.

National Grid declared the systemwide moratorium in May, after the state Department of Environmental Conservation for the second time denied a water-quality permit sought by the company’s construction partner, the Williams Co., to set the pipeline under 24 miles of New York waterways. The DEC said the work would disturb toxic sediment and cause environmental impacts, but gave Williams until next year to reapply and address those concerns.

The administration official said the gas pipeline, which still requires "independent approval" by the DEC, should not be considered an inevitable option from the review. "We think it's one option," the official said. "We wanted to go back and present other options."

In an interview, Cuomo said companies such as National Grid have taken the concept of “too big to fail” to the state’s utility sector under the belief they would not have their franchise yanked, but took it to the “farthest extreme.”

“They gave us no choice” but to act, he said, after denying service and “leaving 3,000 people out in the cold,” while stopping local development with “no plan B to this pipeline.”

It’s a message Cuomo said will carry beyond National Grid.

“I think it sends an industrywide message to these utilities: This is an assertion of the people's power. This is how utilities have been operating for years and with this agreement, the people of New York are back in charge."

Cuomo in recent months had been unrelenting in his criticism of National Grid, accusing the company of holding businesses and homes hostage to its demand for the pipeline and then threatening to revoke its franchise to operate in the state. In more recent weeks, National Grid has taken a conciliatory tone, saying it is working with the state to find near- and long-term alternatives to the pipeline, which would increase gas supply to the region by 14 percent.

National Grid receives about 7,800 new applications for service each year, and since May it has rejected nearly 4,000.

Monday’s agreement eases pressure on National Grid that had extended beyond its stalled customer base. Moody’s Investor Service, the Wall Street rating agency, last week issued a notice saying Cuomo’s threat to revoke the company’s operating certificate was “credit negative for all investor-owned utilities in the state.” Moody’s said Cuomo’s “willingness … to intervene in utility regulation” created a “unpredictable operating environment for the companies,” including Con Ed and Rochester Gas & Electric.

But it wasn’t just Cuomo who’d set his sights on National Grid and the moratorium, which environmental groups have widely dismissed as a fiction created by the company to guarantee a fossil-fuel future in the face of a green-energy agenda. The state attorney general and the Public Service Commission have been investigating the data points and the impacts of the moratorium, including whether some were improperly denied service. The PSC and Cuomo previously ordered the company to restore service to more than 1,100 customers improperly denied gas.

Attorney General Letitia James said her scrutiny of National Grid continues. "We have received numerous complaints, which is why we will continue to closely monitor National Grid and service providers across the state to ensure New Yorkers are getting a fair shake," she said.

Cuomo earlier this month acknowledged the supply shortage exists, and sharply criticized National Grid and the PSC for not acting earlier and more effectively to address it.

While the pipeline has been years in the planning, National Grid has made its most public case for the supply line, which will bring 400 million cubic feet of gas per day to the downstate region, only since earlier this year.

The PSC, according to the administration official, has been "undergoing a soul searching on how it can do better" since Cuomo's letter. "This is a complicated problem. The solution is not an easy one," the official said.

Cuomo's agreement with National Grid includes:

A $36m fine to cover customer losses, new programs.
An independent monitor to review compliance for 2 years.
An agreement to contact thousands of cut-off customers in 30 days to initiate gas hookups.
Devise and implement short- and long-term fixes for the supply shortage.
Hold at least four public hearings on long-term supply proposals.

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