It’s beginning to look a lot like a war. A gas war. In the latest salvo of this escalating conflict, Governor Andrew Cuomo has fired off an angry letter urging the Department of Public Service (DPS) to broaden its investigation into National Grid’s moratorium on new gas hookups, Crain’s reports.
The moratorium was put in place in May after the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) rejected a bid by National Grid and its construction partner, Williams Companies, to build the 23.5-mile Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, or NESE pipeline, that would have brought Pennsylvania natural gas to the company’s customers in New Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island. The DEC ruled that the 17-mile section of pipe under Lower New York Bay would have threatened the city’s waterways.
After imposing the moratorium, National Grid sent notices to customers, encouraging them to sign a pre-written letter in support of the pipeline that will automatically be sent to Cuomo. The DEC could reverse its earlier ban on the pipeline.
In his letter to the DPS, Cuomo wrote: “My administration has received reports that National Grid is refusing service to some customers who initiated new construction projects well before National Grid's announcement of its moratorium, including affordable housing developments.” Cuomo, who has vowed to make New York State carbon-neutral by 2050, added that he has also received reports that homeowners and businesses who requested temporary gas shutdowns during repairs have been denied service resumption by National Grid.
“I direct you to broaden your ongoing investigation to include investigation of these reported incidents,” Cuomo’s letter continues, urging the PSC to order National Grid to restore service and impose penalties and sanctions, “as appropriate,” on the company. “Further,” the letter concludes, “if National Grid is unable to provide safe, affordable and reliable service to existing customers, or is unable to properly plan so that it is able to serve new customers, I direct you to consider alternatives to National Grid as franchisee for some or all of the areas it currently serves.”
Both National Grid and Con Edison say their moratoriums on new gas hookups are driven by the fact that existing pipelines are operating at full capacity. DEC’s rejection of the NESE pipeline was applauded by environmentalists, who argued that a new pipeline would prolong 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.
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