The Natural Resources Defense Council is touting a recent poll claiming to show that the more New Yorkers learn about a proposed pipeline, the more they oppose it. But what the poll really found – prior to asking respondents leading questions – is actually even more alarming: 84 percent of New Yorkers are clueless as to how the Big Apple is powered.
The Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll recently asked 500 potential New York voters – about 0.003 percent of the state’s and 0.006 percent of the city’s estimated populations – what their opinion is on a proposed 23-mile pipeline that would supply the city with natural gas from Pennsylvania. A whopping 84 percent of respondents had “no opinion” on the project, forcing even NRDC to admit that “this is not currently a top-of-mind issue.”
(Mis)Leading Statements Lead to Skewed Findings
While NRDC claims that the respondents heard “equally from both sides” of an audience of New Yorkers who oppose the project by a 5-to-1 margin, a quick look at the details of the poll confirms that’s far from accurate.
From the get-go, they stacked the information to elicit NRDC’s desired “Keep It In the Ground” responses. For instance, rather than explaining that a new pipeline would deliver natural gas to the city, the poll’s administrators used the term “fracked gas”:
“A new 23-mile long pipeline in New York to transport fracked gas. The proposed pipeline will originate in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, travel across New Jersey, cross underwater through Raritan Bay, New York Harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean, connecting off the shores of the Rockaway Peninsula in NYC.“
Phrased this way, only one in three respondents approved of the project, while a plurality (47 percent) opposed it. Unsurprisingly, given the use of that terminology, it also doesn’t appear that it was ever explained to respondents that the owner of the proposed pipeline, Williams, already safely supplies nearly half of the natural gas the city consumes. For perspective, 70 percent of Downstate’s electricity comes from dual fuel (oil and natural gas) and natural gas power plants, according to the state’s grid operator, the New York Independent System Operator.
Further, when context was given about the project based on what supporters and those opposed to it would supposedly argue, the poll’s administrators pitted the economy versus the environment (as if both can’t benefit at the same time):
“Opponents of this pipeline say it would pollute our air and water, harm marine animals, and make us more reliant on fossil fuels that are contributing to climate change. And if the pipeline leaks, thousands of pounds of greenhouse gases could be released in New York, just like what happened recently in California.”
“Supporters say this project will increase domestic energy production and help make American more energy independent and less reliant on foreign sources of energy. Additionally, approving this pipeline would lower the cost of our energy bills, saving New York families more money, and create new, good-paying jobs in New York.”
And while all of those points are true in support of the project, it’s set up as an apples to oranges comparison. For years, NRDC has ignored how natural gas has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector, instead choosing to push a KIITG agenda. The reality is, the conversion to natural gas in New York City buildings has helped reduce emissions greatly, something even former Mayor Michael Bloomberg has acknowledged:
“Natural gas is a low-cost, low-emissions fuel that makes good economic and environmental sense. This study confirms its importance to New York City’s reliable, clean energy future and demonstrates that with responsible, well-regulated development, we can make the investments that both improve our air quality and save lives.”
In fact, increased use of natural gas in U.S. power generation has resulted in 50 percent more emissions reductions than wind or solar combined since 2005.
Reality Check: New Yorkers Need More Natural Gas
Infrastructure that can support these clean-air benefits is doubly important in the Northeast, a region where energy prices remain high because of a lack of pipeline capacity. As the Wall Street Journal reported this month, “the U.S. is overflowing with natural gas [but] not everyone can get it.” Local opposition to pipelines has left residents of New York and the Northeast not only at an increased risk of brownouts, but also burning less-clean fuels, such as heating oil, to heat their homes through the winter. From the WSJ article:
“With U.S. homes, power plants and factories using more natural gas than ever, the uneven distribution of the shale boom’s bounty means that consumers can end up paying more or even become starved for fuel, while companies that can’t get it to market lose out on profits. Around New York City, the dearth of gas has cast uncertainty over new developments and raised fears of stifling economic growth.
“One reason for the problem is that pipelines have become political. Proponents of reducing the use of fossil fuels have had little luck limiting drilling in energy-rich regions. Instead, they’ve turned to fighting pipeline projects on environmental grounds in regions like New York and the Pacific Northwest, where they have a more sympathetic ear.”
Consumers are already feeling the impacts of these NRDC and KIITG efforts to block pipelines in the form of some of the highest energy costs in the country and utilities being forced to reject new applications for natural gas hook-ups.
And given the poll’s timing to coincide with a forthcoming decision from Gov. Cuomo on a necessary water quality permit for this project, it’s pretty clear what the agenda behind it actually was: to prevent New Yorkers from having access to an affordable, reliable source of energy.
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