National Grid has turned to its customers to help build support for Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC’s (Transco) imperiled Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), which it claims would help ease natural gas shortages in New York City.

In a recent email to customers, National Grid, the Northeast’s largest natural gas distributor, said supplies are “at risk” in downstate New York. The company invited customers to click on a link allowing them to notify New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state, local and federal officials of their support for the project.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in May denied NESE’s water quality certification (WQC) application, finding that the project would result in water quality violations and fails to meet state standards. State regulators invited Transco to reapply, which it did a day after the denial, triggering a new comment period that lasted until Saturday. Without the certification, the project might not move forward.  

National Grid urged its customers to show their support by the Saturday deadline in an example of the measures companies are taking to combat the state’s stance against fossil fuels. National Grid spokesperson Karen Young said an email was sent to customers who have agreed to receive notifications from the utility.

“Our education outreach about the impact of natural gas supply constraints provides information for consumers and customers if they are planning for new or upgraded natural gas service, and how approvals and permits required for the project will impact their plans,” Young said.

The company warned that if NESE does not enter service or fails to enter service by the winter of 2020-21, as the company had expected, it won’t be able to provide new service or increased gas load in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.

“Without NESE, National Grid will not be able to supply natural gas to new commercial, industrial and residential customers to heat our homes or run our businesses, putting the region’s economic growth at risk, as well as impeding state and city carbon emission goals,” the utility said.

National Grid has already put customers on notice, saying it's in contingency status, accepting applications without the ability to commit to offering firm gas. Consolidated Edison, which shares infrastructure with National Grid serving the city, imposed a moratorium earlier this year on new service to the north in Westchester County and warned of additional disruptions in the city without NESE. Con Ed has also signed agreements to expand existing interstate systems to get more gas into the region in the coming years.

NESE faces a rough path, however, as state regulators have issued similar denials for other pipeline projects, such as the Constitution Pipeline and the Northern Access expansion project, which both remain in limbo as a result. NESE’s denial also came about a month before the state passed one of the nation’s most aggressive climate protection bills, solidifying its stance against fossil fuels.

Now that Transco has reapplied for a WQC, it could also take up to another year for the state to make a decision on the new application under federal law.

NESE is fully subscribed by National Grid subsidiaries serving customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The project is designed to create 400 MMcf/d of incremental firm capacity to meet demand for gas in the city.

Environmental groups have staunchly opposed it, mainly over concerns about its proposed crossing of the Raritan and New York bays. They’ve also alleged that the utilities have overstated natural gas demand and exaggerated the region’s supply shortages.