Appalachian Basin

*UPDATE* Another New York Pipeline Denied: Will the ‘City That Never Sleeps’ Soon Be In the Dark?

UPDATE (9/15/17, 5:00 EST)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday overruled the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYDEC) denial of a permit to expand the Millennium Pipeline based on its determination that state agency took too long to make the decision.

FERC ruled that NYDEC waived its right to determine whether the project met CWA requirements because the one-year deadline to do so had already passed. FERC determined that one-year period started when NYDEC received the project review application in 2015, while NYDEC argued that its clock to review the application started when paperwork was complete, a date that was delayed by two state requests for additional information in the case.

The decisions clears the way for the extension to be completed and “may signal how Washington could curtail states’ efforts to stall energy infrastructure projects,” according to Politico.

Original Post (8/31/17)

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) has once again denied a permit for a pipeline slated to deliver much-needed natural gas to markets in the state. The Millennium Pipeline this week joined the Constitution and the Northern Access as the third major pipeline that has been denied permitting in recent years.

The state’s decision to continue to block needed infrastructure from being built is putting New York in quite the conundrum, as Business Council of New York chief executive Heather Briccetti recently explained:

“Despite the tremendous growth in demand for natural gas, New York hasn’t added enough natural gas pipeline capacity. The increased use of natural gas by households, businesses and electric generators has strained current natural gas infrastructure, resulting in occasional curtailments of supply.”

The reality for New York is that it has a state energy plan that calls for the use of more natural gas, but at each turn continues to make it impossible to actually meet the demands of residents and businesses with its ban on fracking and denial of infrastructure permits. And with the recent announcement that the state will also close the Indian Point nuclear power plant, the state’s energy outlook could become even more dire.

Journalist Robert Bryce recently discussed this, detailing how a new report for the Manhattan Institute “shows that if Indian Point is shuttered before new power plants are built near the five-borough area, the probability of blackouts in New York City will double.” He continues,

“Making matters worse: [Gov.] Cuomo’s appointees are refusing to approve new natural gas pipelines, which could supply fuel to generation plants that could — in theory, anyway — replace the electricity now being produced by the two reactors at Indian Point.”

Instead the state is focused on another part of its energy plan that calls for New York to get half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The major problem with this is that even as renewable energy becomes a greater part of the New York energy mix, the state will still need backup fuel sources due to the intermittent nature of such energy sources.

After all, even in sunny California where the solar industry flourishes, the Golden State still relies on other fuel sources such as natural gas at times. Stephen Berberich, the president of California’s grid operator California ISO, told Fortune recently that natural gas will continue to be an important part of the state’s backup energy supply for renewables:

“The ‘electric grid of tomorrow’ will increasingly have to deal with fluctuating power supplies from the wind and sun while incorporating quick-start gas turbines during events like the upcoming eclipse.”

The recent total solar eclipse showed just how big of a role natural gas will play in supplementing renewables, in addition to its own importance in the market. In fact, had it not been for the easily accessible supply of natural gas in places like California and North Carolina during the eclipse, customers would have experienced significant disruptions to power supplies.

Even the Northeast was impacted. But fortunately, PJM Interconnection, which supplies electricity to two of New York’s neighbors (Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and 11 other states, was able torely on their fleet of natural gas power plants to fill in the gaps, combined with the output from coal, nuclear, and even wind farms,” according to Washington Examiner.

In fact, the solar and natural gas actually go hand-in-hand, as explained in a 2016 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER):

“All other things equal, a 1% percent increase in the share of fast reacting fossil technologies is associated with a 0.88% percent increase in renewable generation capacity in the long term.

“Our paper calls attention to the fact that renewables and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary and that they should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.” (emphasis added)

So how is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo realistically going to keep the heat and lights on, not only in the Big Apple, but across the state?

At this point, New York has all but halted oil and natural gas development within its borders – the state’s ban on high volume hydraulic fracturing also hindered the conventional industry that had been operating there since the 1800s, as the following Energy Information Administration (EIA) graphic illustrates.

All the while, the state continues on a path that calls for more natural gas to be consumed within the state, particularly for electricity generation, as the following EIA graphics illustrate.

The decision to ban fracking within the state was clearly political, playing off an echo chamber of activists’ claims far removed from reality, and the denial of infrastructure projects is more of the same.

As colder weather is beginning to set in across the Marcellus, Gov. Cuomo’s continued commitment to politics over sound science and facts leaves the rest of the country wondering: If New York can’t supply enough energy within its borders, it has to get it somewhere. Where and how does it plan to do so? And at what cost to its residents and businesses?

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