Unions, Editorial Boards Criticize Cuomo’s Decision on the Constitution Pipeline

After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected a permit needed to build the Constitution Pipeline, union groups, editorial boards and New York officials are speaking out about how bad this decision actually is for consumers in the Empire State.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) responded explaining what it will mean for the union workers that hoped to be employed on the project:

“The Constitution Pipeline permit denial by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is both a disappointment and an insult to the citizens of New York and the thousands of hard working tradesmen and women who would have benefited from the good jobs and affordable clean energy. The project was shovel-ready and would have been built under a Project Labor Agreement; ensuring that thousands of highly-skilled and trained construction workers would have job opportunities with family-supporting wages and benefits.

The unusual decision to deny a federally-approved project sacrifices the best interests of New Yorkers. Utilizing skilled construction workers and responsible contractors, pipelines are safe. Despite the hysteria surrounding pipeline construction, pipelines are the safest way to transport natural gas.” (emphasis added)

LIUNA also described what this decision will mean for New York as a whole and not just the men and women who are part of the union:

“The facts that have been completely disregarded are that expansion of natural gas is the best hope for affordable energy in a region with some of the highest energy costs in the nation. Without it, New York cannot meet future energy demands or clean power goals. The scheduled closure of the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant and the proposed closure of the state’s three remaining coal plants will take enough energy offline to power more than a million homes. The closures combined with anticipated increases in demand and EPA goals to reduce emissions by 10 percent will create a shortfall of 29 million megawatt hours by 2030. Fully two thirds of New York’s clean energy requirements could be met by using natural gas: without it and projects like the Constitution Pipeline, there is not a realistic scenario for meeting these goals or keeping the lights on.

Instead of considering what is in the best interest of the people of the great state of New York, the decision by the NYSDEC undermines the economy, progress on clean power, and access to affordable energy.” (emphasis added)

Adding to criticism, the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial this week noting that Governor Cuomo “wants to prevent other states from realizing economic benefits that he’s denied New Yorkers.” This is accomplished by denying the infrastructure needed to move gas from states like Pennsylvania and Ohio where it is being developed to New York and New England that have documented need for the resource.

Like LIUNA, the Wall Street Journal editorial also described the impacts to New York residents from this decision. From the editorial:

“Shale fracking has driven down natural gas prices and boosted manufacturing in the Midwest and Southeast—domestic production has more than quadrupled since 2009—but limited pipeline capacity has constrained supplies in the Northeast. Consumers compete with power plants for heating fuel in the winter, raising gas and electricity prices.

The Constitution Pipeline promised to deliver enough natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to fuel three million homes in New York and New England. Converting to natural gas from heating oil would save the typical upstate New York homeowner $1,000 per year.” (emphasis added)

The editorial goes on to note:

“Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, a Democrat, advocated the pipeline’s approval to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014 because of “unprecedented electricity price increases in the coming years” due to natural gas infrastructure constraints. Amphenol Aerospace, a manufacturer, says it stayed in Sidney, New York, only because of assurances from ‘state officials that they would assist us in bringing natural gas to plant.’”

Finally, as Politico reported , both the Public Service Commission and the state’s independent grid operator have previously described the need for pipelines:

“And last year, the chairwoman of the Public Service Commission, Audrey Zibelman, said “from the economic perspective, additional pipeline capacity into the state will be useful.”

The state’s independent grid operator has cautioned that “the lights will go out” without additional gas pipelines and transmission lines.

For the state to fulfill its goals, in other words, New York needs and is depending on more natural gas. And in order to get more natural gas, more pipelines are needed.” (emphasis added)

EID noted the irony of denying the very infrastructure the state needs to achieve the goals laid out in its 2015 Energy Plan—a plan that calls for a whopping 32 percent increase in natural gas usage in a state that already gets 34 percent of its energy from natural gas. This type of decision isn’t entirely unexpected from the state that used an anti-fracking echo chamber to justify a fracking ban in the same week it called for an increase in its natural gas usage.

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