Appalachian Basin

Secretary Granholm’s Letter-Writing Pleas Leave New England Families Out in the Cold

The U.S. Department of Energy recently sent letters to New England governors urging them to take measures to shore up their oil and natural gas supplies ahead of the coming winter. Energy Sec. Granholm wrote:

“I urge you to consider what additional steps you can take in the coming weeks to improve preparedness, including using any legislative or executive tools at your disposal, working with responsible state agencies to require increased storage levels, and encouraging industry to voluntarily prioritize increasing gasoline and distillate inventories at this pivotal period of heightened risk.” (emphasis added)

It’s rich in hypocrisy that Sec. Granholm wants to talk about “preparedness” and compel these governors to use “any tools at their disposal” to increase energy inventories when many actions of the Biden administration have been in direct opposition of this goal.

Since entering office, the Biden administration has taken a variety of actions showing hostility toward domestic energy production and causing uncertainty in the market including: banning federal leasing for new development, canceling domestic pipelines, taxing natural gas, and promoting a regulatory environment that discourages investment in future oil and natural gas production.

Exacerbating this problem even more, New England states have consistently passed fracking bans and blocked critical infrastructure that would increase production and capacity that consumers rely on for their energy needs.

Over the past several years, environmental activists have protested building new and critically needed pipeline infrastructure to carry the abundance of U.S. natural gas from shale fields to consumers. This activism has especially been on display in the Northeast where projects have faced delays and cancelations due to lawsuits and regulations by state agencies.

States like New York and Maryland have passed bans on hydraulic fracturing, while New York and New Jersey have repeatedly rejected pipeline permits under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, misusing the law as a way to block and delay oil and natural gas pipelines.

Because of policies like these that disable potential oil and gas pathways, New England states often see the highest prices for their fuels. A 2019 Manhattan Institute report explained:

“Utility rates in New York are already among the highest in the country—and shutting off access to more natural gas is only going to make things worse. …In addition to higher natural gas costs, New Yorkers and New Englanders are paying higher electricity prices than average Americans. …Only four other states on the East Coast have higher residential electricity rates than New York. All of them are in New England: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.” (emphasis added)

Millions of Americans rely on natural gas and oil to heat their homes during the winter season. New England, which depends on home heating oil more than any other part of the country, imports large percentages of its oil and fuel from other parts of the country, and even the world. In fact, during the Polar Vortex of 2018, natural gas constraints similar to the one Sec. Granholm is foreboding led to the region importing LNG – but not from energy-rich U.S. regions – but from Russia!

Energy shortages and crises like these shouldn’t be happening when these New England states sit just a few hundred miles or less away from the energy-rich Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

The abundance of gas is there – if they’d only tap into it. The Potential Gas Committee’s recent biennial analysis of U.S. natural gas reserves found the United States has over 3,000 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas:

“The Atlantic Area ranks as the country’s richest resource area with 39 percent of total U.S. gas resources, followed by the Mid-Continent with 18 percent, the Rocky Mountains with 17 percent, and the Gulf Coast (including the Gulf of Mexico) with 16 percent.”

According to PGC, most of the nation’s natural gas resources can be found in the Atlantic Area of the country, because of their proximity to the resource-abundant Marcellus and Utica shales.

Despite this, these Northern Atlantic and New England states continue to be the states with the highest prices and critical shortages – simply because they don’t have the pipeline capacity and natural gas reserve to support their customers – and aren’t enacting policies to solve this critical problem.

Bottom Line: Millions of families rely on natural gas and oil to heat their homes during the winter season, and lack of infrastructure to support these needs directly jeopardizes Americans’ safety and security. Instead of supporting policies that encourage responsible development and production of natural gas and oil, Secretary Granholm and the Biden administration would rather pass the buck through empty letter-writing rather than take any meaningful action. Unfortunately, New England families will be the ones left out in the cold.

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