Skirmishes over natural gas shortages in New York City are intensifying as the winter heating season nears, with one distributor insisting that it can’t serve thousands of new customers without more infrastructure and policymakers pushing for answers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week directed the state Department of Public Service (DPS) to broaden its investigation into National Grid’s moratorium on new gas service. He wrote in a letter to regulators that his administration has received reports of customers who have been unable to resume service after it was disconnected to finish renovations. He ordered the DPS to take any steps necessary to ensure service resumes where possible and impose fines if necessary.
The governor even threatened the company’s role in the region, directing the DPS to “consider alternatives to National Grid as franchisee for some or all of the areas it currently serves.”
National Grid has warned for most of the year that without additional infrastructure to serve the city, it won’t be able to meet increasing demand. Both New York and New Jersey have denied key permits for Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC’s Northeast Supply Enhancement project. Northeast Supply is fully subscribed by National Grid subsidiaries serving customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. New York has also denied other projects in recent years, such as the Constitution Pipeline, which would have brought more supplies into the city.
Last month, National Grid President John Bruckner said the company would not risk the operational integrity of its system and compromise natural gas use for its existing 1.8 million customers in the city to add service without additional capacity. Spokesperson Karen Young told NGI on Wednesday that the company has been unable to process 2,600 applications, representing 20,000 commercial, residential and multifamily units.
“We will stand by and honor all customer commitments that were approved before we determined that we can no longer safely serve additional gas load without additional supply,” Young said in response to the governor’s concerns. “We’ve been working closely with DPS staff and its consultants to support the commission’s investigation of gas supply constraints in downstate New York and will continue to cooperate with any further inquiries while we await the results of that study.”
Making matters worse, Consolidated Edison Co. (Con Ed), which shares infrastructure with National Grid serving the city, has also imposed a moratorium on new gas service in suburbs to the north of the city in Westchester County. Con Ed stopped taking applications for new service and has warned of additional disruptions without Northeast Supply.
The DPS launched a review of the gas constraints earlier this year and is expected to make recommendations to ensure utilities across the state are able to meet customer needs in a way that is consistent with Cuomo’s aggressive energy conservation goals. The overdue report was expected to be released on July 1.
In the meantime, National Grid has been spreading word that it can’t meet demand without more infrastructure, a claim environmental groups have said is exaggerated. The company has launched a radio campaign to inform the public of the supply shortage and has even reached out to customers asking them to communicate their support for Northeast Supply to policymakers.
A day after Cuomo sent his letter to the DPS, five prominent Long Island business and trade groups sent another letter to the governor urging his administration to approve the Northeast Supply project. Transco has already reapplied for the permits it needs in New Jersey and New York, where regulators kept the door open for further review.
Northeast Supply is designed to create 400 MMcf/d of incremental firm capacity to meet demand for gas in New York City. Environmental groups have staunchly opposed the project, mainly over concerns about its proposed crossing of the Raritan and New York bays. Pennsylvania issued a water quality certification for the project in March 2018, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a certificate last May.