National Grid has backed down from its warning that customer bills would rise by as much as 2 percent above the requested $8.39 monthly hike if the state did not approve a controversial $1 billion natural gas pipeline, Newsday reports. The state Department of Environmental Conservation rejected the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline in May, citing fears that the underwater pipeline could damage city waterways. National Grid promptly announced a moratorium on new gas hookups to customers in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, claiming that existing pipelines were operating at maximum capacity and the utility could not take on new customers and continue to serve existing customers.
Facing a threat from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to revoke its license, National Grid agreed last month to end the moratorium – and pay a $36 million penalty to the state. Of that sum, $7 million will go to help customers who were caught short by the moratorium, and the rest will fund upgrading efficiency and clean-energy projects under the direction of the state. National Grid shareholders – not customers – will pay the fine.
The state-mandated steps National Grid must take to satisfy gas demand this winter will not “materially” affect customer bills or boost its spring rate-hike request "significantly" above a previously requested $8.39 a month, the company said this week. National Grid spokesman Domenick Graziani said the threatened 1-2 percent additional hike was based on the possibility the downstate moratorium would still be in place and the company would not be adding new customers during the next two winters. He added that the original assumption that the utility would not be hooking up new customers "is no longer the case, given the recent agreement.”
Cuomo called the agreement “a victory for customers," adding that "National Grid will pay a significant penalty for its failure to address the supply issue, its abuse of its customers, and the adverse economic impact they have caused. The company is also working to address the long-term supply problem and will present options in the coming months to the people of Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island."
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