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With Pipeline Voted Down, Will Natural Gas Moratorium Follow?

New York City

No Pipeline

New York State has already banned fracking (above) and now it has rejected a natural-gas pipeline.

May 17, 2019

In a major victory for environmental activists – and a major setback for proponents of fracking and fossil fuels – New York State regulators have rejected the construction of a heavily disputed $1 billion natural gas pipeline that would have fed New York City and Long Island, the New York Times reports.

“Construction of the NESE pipeline project is projected to result in water quality violations and fails to meet New York State’s rigorous water quality standards,” the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said, referring to what is formally called the Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline. 

The pipeline was planned to run 37 miles, connecting natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York. Its operator, the Oklahoma-based Williams Companies, pitched it as a crucial addition to the region’s energy infrastructure that would stave off a looming shortage, given that New York State banned fracking in 2014. Con Edison has already imposed a moratorium on new gas hookups in southern Westchester County because existing pipelines are operating at maximum capacity. National Grid has threatened to impose a similar moratorium in New York City and Long Island if the NESE pipeline was not approved. 

But environmental groups said Williams was manufacturing a crisis to justify a project that would rip apart fragile ecosystems, perpetuate the burning of fossil fuels, and hobble the state’s march toward renewable energy sources. Last month the New York City Council passed a stringent law that will require large buildings, including co-ops and condos, to reduce their carbon emissions in coming years – or face stiff penalties. Part of those reductions will have to come from reducing the burning of fossils fuels, including natural gas. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a powerful national environmentalist group, called the NESE pipeline decision a “huge win.” The Consumer Energy Alliance, which pushes for stable prices and energy security, called the decision a “letdown.”

Williams is free to re-apply for approval of the pipeline, and the company has said it plans to do so.

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