Constitution Pipeline Stalls Out, New Yorkers Miss Out
Posted March 5, 2020
Politics continues to dictate energy policy in New York – with the state’s consumers paying the price.
Look at the recently announced shelving of the Constitution natural gas pipeline by the Williams Company and its partners. The 124-mile line would have piped natural gas from the nearby Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania into New York. The builders gave up after nearly eight years of trying to get through regulatory red tape and general opposition to new natural gas infrastructure by Albany.
It’s a missed opportunity for New Yorkers. Alan Armstrong, Williams president and CEO, talked about the Constitution pipeline decision during an infrastructure event this week in Washington, D.C.:
“In the end the Constitution issue really changed … because states to the south and loads to the south were very anxious to have those gas supplies, and so we developed three other projects while Constitution was being blocked. … So, the Southeast states will enjoy that low-cost fuel supply. The Northeast states and New England will continue to be deprived by it and pay three to four times more for their gas supplies. That’s a political decision that was made (by state leaders)."
It's also a missed opportunity for the environment – ostensibly, the reason New York’s political leadership has blocked new natural gas infrastructure (and odd, given the leading role natural gas already plays in meeting the state’s energy needs).
Armstrong underscored what we’ve been saying about the need to add pipelines and other infrastructure as important in helping the environment – considering that the increased use of natural gas in electricity generation is the No. 1 reason U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are at their lowest levels in a generation. Armstrong:
“We have a lot of opportunities to reduce emissions by getting infrastructure, by utilizing our low-cost natural gas here. … [T]he fastest way to reduce emissions is by getting the infrastructure and by getting our lower carbon fuels into our mix today.”
In specific cases, where natural gas may replace coal in electricity generation and where increased takeaway capacity can help reduce the need for flaring, new infrastructure is important to continuing the United States’ leadership in lowering CO2 emissions while also capturing as much methane as possible during production. Armstrong:
“We have a lot of very pragmatic opportunities sitting in front of us right now, right here, to reduce emissions. We are not taking advantage of those because we’re not permitting infrastructure [in certain locations]. … We’ve got to be thinking that if we’re really concerned about climate change, we ought to be thinking about emissions we can reduce right here, right now. And while we’re stepping over the top of those, reaching for this zero-carbon emissions in 2050, we are continuing to unnecessarily put emissions in the air today, and those are the things we should really be tackling right now.”
The Constitution pipeline is a missed chance to better serve consumers and help advance environmental goals. Still being discussed is the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE), which would bring natural gas to New York City – parts of which have seen National Grid, the public utility, impose a moratorium on new natural gas connections because there’s insufficient supply. In a report prepared for New York officials, National Grid says the state’s growing demand for natural gas will start outpacing supply next winter and that the gap between supply and demand will widen over the next decade. The chart below shows this gap in both high-demand and low-demand scenarios:
According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, by itself the NESE “would nearly close the supply gap in the high-demand scenario, delivering 400,000 (Dekatherms per day) …” There are other options, some more expensive and less attractive for consumers. Armstrong:
“NESE is a little more direct and obvious in terms of the need for New York. Constitution, perhaps, wasn’t as obvious in terms of need. But National Grid has now come out with a study, and I think it clearly shows that the best solution for meeting the needs there of New York, from both an emissions standpoint and from an economic perspective is NESE. Hopefully, those circumstances will prevail.”
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 six grandchildren.