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War Over Natural Gas Pipelines Goes to New Level

New York City

Pipeline Pushback
July 12, 2019

National Grid is trying to enlist its customers’ support in getting a natural gas pipeline built in New York – an unusual move for a utility and an indication of just how intense the battle over fossil-fuel pipelines has become, Crain’s reports.

National Grid is sending notices to some of its customers, warning them that it can’t expand their gas service unless New York State clears a controversial $1 billion pipeline expansion. The project, known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline, is designed to deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania to customers in New Jersey and New York. In its notices to customers, National Grid encourages ratepayers to sign a pre-written letter in support of the pipeline that will automatically be sent to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

In May, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) rejected the NESE pipeline because of possible damage to New York City’s waterways. The next day, National Grid announced it would stop processing new applications for all residential and commercial gas hookups. Con Edison had already imposed a moratorium on new gas hookups in parts of Westchester County. The utilities said their moves were driven by New York State’s 2014 ban on fracking and the fact that existing pipelines are operating at full capacity

The letter-writing campaign is part of the effort to get the DEC to reverse its earlier decision banning the NESE pipeline. The ban was applauded by environmentalists, who argued that a new pipeline would prolong the city’s reliance on fossil fuels and hamper the development of renewable energy sources, including wind and solar. They also accuse National Grid of fabricating a natural-gas shortage.  

The pipeline controversy has come to a head shortly after the New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act, which will require many large buildings, including co-ops and condos, to reduce their carbon emissions sharply in coming years – or face severe financial penalties. Governor Cuomo, meanwhile, is pushing to make New York State carbon-neutral by 2050. This is, indeed, war.

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