“Keep It In the Ground” efforts to obstruct and delay pipeline infrastructure are having real consequences for consumers, as New Yorkers are experiencing first-hand. The state’s utilities are unable to expand their natural gas services unless Gov. Cuomo allows pipeline capacity to increase.
National Grid makes plea to customers
The company is sending letters to its customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island warning that due to supply constraints, it will be unable to process new gas service applications unless New York permits Williams’ $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement Project. The notices urge customers to sign pre-written letters in support of the pipeline expansion to be sent to Cuomo. As E&E News reported:
“’The fact that National Grid is doing this on the basis of pure necessity — that the company genuinely needs access to natural gas supply — is a really powerful’ case for Williams’ project, said Katie Bays, co-founder of the Washington-based consulting firm Sandhill Strategy. She noted that it comes at little cost to the utility.”
The NSEP pipeline is designed to deliver much needed natural gas from Pennsylvania to customers in New Jersey and New York. As demand continues to grow, existing pipelines have reached full capacity, spurring urgent need for expansions. New York is the sixth-largest U.S. natural gas consumer and receives nearly 46 percent of its electricity generation from natural gas, yet it holds less than 0.05 percent of the nation’s total reserves.
And National Grid isn’t the only company ringing the alarms about the dire need for pipelines in the Empire State. Earlier this year, Con Edison announced a moratorium on new gas hookups in Westchester County:
“In partnership with our customers, stakeholders, and regulators, we have made great improvements to the air quality in our service area with customers converting from oil to natural gas for their heating needs. The demand for natural gas, however, is outpacing supply on the coldest days due to those conversions, preference for natural gas use in new building construction projects, and constraints on interstate pipelines that bring natural gas to customers in Westchester County. These interstate pipeline constraints do not affect our existing customers, but limit our ability to serve new customers on the coldest days, when demand for natural gas is at its peak.” (emphasis added)
New Yorkers are Paying the Price for KIITG Activism
These extreme measures are a result of continued KIITG activism across the state. Cuomo’s 2014 fracking ban wiped out 191,841 job opportunities – a workforce larger than the entire city of Syracuse – and stunted GDP growth, according to a report by the Global Energy Institute. In 2017 alone, New York denied plans for two major gas pipelines on unfounded environmental grounds. As Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) recently said:
“When the United States leads the world in producing natural gas but states in the Northeast have to import Russian LNG, you know you have something wrong. For decades states have routinely certified pipeline and other infrastructure projects under the Clean Water Act without cause for concern, but lately we’ve seen the unfortunate trend of activist state governments blocking projects they deem politically unsavory.”
Despite the abundance of natural gas in the Northeast from the Marcellus and Utica shales, New Yorkers and their New England neighbors pay some of the highest natural gas and electricity prices in the country, due to a shortage in pipeline infrastructure.
Thanks to years of KIITG protests, lawsuits, and legislative efforts, New York residents paid nearly 50 percent more than the national average for their electricity in 2018. This gap has only gotten worse, according to a recent Manhattan Institute report:
“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 2018, U.S. residential gas customers paid an average of $10.53 per million Btu. By contrast, in January 2019, Con Ed’s gas customers were paying $19.97 per million Btu, roughly 90% more than the national average. By April, with the cold weather over, Con Ed’s gas customers were still paying $17.57 per million Btu, about 67% more than the national average.”
Blocked Pipelines Will Increase Emissions
Blocked pipeline development is also having environmental consequences. According to the Manhattan Institute report, New York will likely have to turn to higher emission fuel sources if they continue to restrict natural gas supply:
“The shortages are due in large part to New York State regulators, who are refusing to allow the construction of new gas pipelines…[these restrictions] will likely result in increased use of heating fuel oil, which means increased air pollution and carbon-dioxide emissions.”
By contrast, the transition to natural gas helps to reduce emissions. According to the report:
“Switching from heating oil to natural gas helps reduce traditional air pollutants like sulfur dioxide. It also reduces carbon-dioxide emissions by about 27%. … But insufficient flows of natural gas due to inadequate pipeline capacity mean higher emissions.”
In fact, natural gas has propelled the United States to become the world leader in emissions reductions and has cut 50 percent more emissions in the United States than wind or solar combined since 2005.
While “Keep It In the Ground” activists tout environmental concerns, their continued efforts to stymie pipeline development in New York are forcing residents to pay more and use higher emitting fuel just to keep the lights on. New focus has been placed on revising certain policies that will hopefully alleviate some of these issues, but in the meantime it’s New Yorkers who will continue to feel the burden of Cuomo’s decisions.
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