New York's Wakeup Call on Natural Gas Infrastructure
Posted January 23, 2019
Con Edison’s moratorium on new natural gas service to homes and businesses in the southern part of affluent Westchester County, just north of New York City, is a loud wakeup call to the entire state on the folly of stalling or blocking critical pipeline infrastructure – bad public policy that could limit or deny consumers access to abundant and reliable energy.
POLITICO has the story. Basically, the natural gas utility says there’s insufficient pipeline capacity to meet the area’s growing need for natural gas, which is underscored during peak heating periods. You know, like right now. POLITICO:
The moratorium is the result of high gas demand on the coldest winter days and the limited pipeline capacity in the area. While Con Edison proposed non-pipeline alternatives in an attempt to avoid blocking new gas hookups, the proposals were ultimately not enough to alleviate the need for a new pipeline.
The article says Con Edison will stop accepting applications for new firm natural gas service on March 15. The utility says it has been warning state policymakers that this could happen for months.
Unfortunately for New York state residents, New York policymakers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have opposed new natural gas infrastructure projects for a number of years. POLITICO:
The Cuomo administration has rejected permits for most new gas pipeline projects in recent years, leading to pipeline developers shying away from proposing projects in the state. Environmental advocates are pressuring Cuomo to reject all new gas infrastructure, including a pipeline National Grid says is needed to avoid its own moratoriums on Long Island and in the city.
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin said the natural gas service moratorium would “devastate” development in Westchester, including initiatives to build affordable housing. Development in New Rochelle, which has received $10 million from Cuomo’s downtown investment program, could be stalled. A building boom in Yonkers, the state’s fourth-largest city, could be halted, Mayor Mike Spano says.
Get this: Con Edison has warned natural gas service moratoriums eventually might be needed in New York City, which obviously could compound the negative impacts of agenda-driven policies that ultimately fail consumers. The article quotes Peter Kauffmann of New Yorkers for Affordable Energy:
“This action is a direct result of the state's continued blockade on natural gas infrastructure, which will make it harder and harder — and more and more expensive — for New Yorkers to heat their homes and run their businesses. This notice, coupled with single-digit temperatures, should be a wake-up call for Albany that if this trend continues New Yorkers will be left vulnerable and without reliable, affordable heat. Winter isn’t coming; winter is here.”
Winter indeed has arrived, and responsibility for the negative impacts of wrongheaded rejection of safe pipeline construction and clean natural gas lies with state policymakers at a number of levels.
A similar scenario has played out in New England the past few winters, with plunging temperatures resulting in skyrocketing demand for electricity (that could be generated with natural gas) and natural gas heat – demand that couldn’t always be met largely because of self-imposed infrastructure constraints.
The fact is natural gas and its infrastructure are reliable and resilient, even in severe weather conditions. This was demonstrated during the 2017 hurricane season and during extreme cold of several recent winters – with natural gas safely transported by pipeline systems that are mostly underground.
So, the solution is right under New Yorkers' feet. The same Marcellus and Utica shale reserves that are being tapped in next-door Pennsylvania extend into the Empire State. The natural gas is available. Unfortunately, New York has banned hydraulic fracturing since 2014, leaving those vast shale reserves in the ground.
Natural gas from Pennsylvania is nearby but, again, New York state officials have opposed pipeline projects. And now Con Edison says there’s not enough natural gas pipeline capacity to serve the needs of a big chunk of Westchester County. API’s Todd Snitchler, vice president for market development:
An enhanced natural gas infrastructure system to deliver safe, clean and reliable natural gas would keep people safe from dangerously cold weather, via home heating and power generation, and be a necessary complement to renewables-based generation portfolios. … Counting on future technological advancements and ambitious aspirational goals is one thing, but it doesn’t help those in need of heat and electricity today.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and four grandchildren.
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