National Grid May Be Forced to Issue a Gas Moratorium…Again

Consumers in New York may face the consequences of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to stymie natural gas pipeline development across the Empire State once again. In a new report, utility National Grid hints that it will “have to restrict new gas customer connections,” if the state doesn’t allow the construction and expansion of pipelines in an area where access to low-cost supplies coming from nearby shale development has been constrained.

In November, Cuomo threatened to revoke the utility’s license after it issued a months-long moratorium on new natural gas hook-ups in response to supply issues. The governor’s move highlighted what many see as his ignorance to the consequences of aggressive “Keep It in the Ground” policies; If not for Cuomo’s ongoing pipeline blockage, the company never would have had to suspend service in the first place. This conflict was temporarily resolved by an agreement to develop long-term solutions to avoid continuing natural gas constraints by June 2020.

Over the past 10 years, National Grid said demand for natural gas in the region has increased by 2.4 percent annually, placing significant constraints on the utility’s existing gas network. As it explained:

“Quite simply, we are at risk of not having enough gas to meet the needs of our customers during periods of peak demand on cold winter days.”

In May, state regulators denied permits for the $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement project, undermining the utility’s ability to relieve their pipeline capacity constraints. The pipeline was designed to deliver much needed natural gas from Pennsylvania to customers in New Jersey and New York. While New York is the sixth-largest consumer of natural gas in the United States, it holds less than 0.05 percent of the nation’s total reserves, making out-of-state energy imports essential for the state.

Pipeline Blockade Threatens New Yorkers’ Safety

Lacking any resolution to its limited infrastructure, the utility is using trucks to transport compressed natural gas from outside of National Grid’s territories and injecting the fuel into its existing pipeline network. The company plans to increase its fleet from 42 to 108 trucks next winter in an attempt to keep up with demand. This make-shift solution is not only unsustainable for the company, but introduces increased safety concerns.

As the Fraser Institute explains,

“The evidence is clear: transporting oil by pipeline is safe and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, pipeline transportation is safer than transportation by road, rail, or barge, as measured by incidents, injuries, and fatalities- even though more road and rail incidents go unreported.”

Natural Gas Shortage Continues to Hurt Consumers

National Grid’s struggle to provide much-needed natural gas to New Yorkers comes as a result of Cuomo’s decade-long effort to eliminate fossil fuels from the state – much to the dismay of consumers. The state’s 2014 fracking ban alone wiped out 191,841 job opportunities and stunted GDP growth. In addition, New Yorkers pay some of the highest natural gas and electricity prices in the country, due to a shortage in pipeline infrastructure.

Unfortunately, “Keep it in the Ground” activists have yet to realize the consequences of their actions. Just this week, Williams Cos. announced the cancellation of the Constitution Pipeline Project in New York after years of legal battles and pushback by environmental activists.

National Grid’s potential gas moratorium is only the beginning of New Yorkers’ plight. As advocacy group Power the Future recently explained, efforts to undermine access to natural gas in the Empire State will continue to have compounding negative effects on its residents:

“Because it not only rejects the shale revolution, but also because it is actively opposing anything having to do with fossil fuels, New York’s economic future is in peril.”

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