December 2019 Vol. 74 No. 12

Editor's Log

The Gas War of NY's Governor

By Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief

The wind blows hard from the state of New York’s governor’s office. Chicago is known as the Windy City but it’s got nothing on the hot air flowing out of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s headquarters.

The third-term governor has emerged as a fervent anti-carbon stalwart. The latest insanity is over Cuomo’s battle with regional gas utility National Grid and his efforts to block a pipeline expansion, but his history of anti-carbon behavior goes back several years.

Cuomo fired the first volley against the oil and gas industry in 2014 when he issued a ban on hydraulic fracturing. While parts of western and upstate New York are rich with oil and gas bearing shale rock, none of it has been developed due to the ban. Business conditions remain very challenging in those areas and citizens were hoping for an economic boost similar to what has occurred in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Cuomo’s ban killed those hopes and has kept New York dependent upon fuel sources from outside the state.

Recently, Cuomo’s anti-oil and gas perspectives took another ill-advised step when he directed state agencies to delay – with the intention to outright ban – permits to build a critical pipeline that was slated to bring much-needed natural gas into the state. The $1 billion Constitution Pipeline, being built by Williams, would bring an ample supply of gas to New York City and Long Island.

One might think that the state of New York as a whole is solidly against the use of natural gas for its heating and related energy needs in any way, shape or form – just like their governor. Curiously, just the opposite is true. A 2017 U.S. Census American Housing Survey revealed that 57 percent of the state’s 7.4 million households now use natural gas for space heating while 23 percent still use fuel oil. Just since 2009, the total number of NY households using natural gas for space heating has grown by more than 475,000 households. A heavy concentration of that growth has been in the greater NYC area.

Obviously, New York residents have seen the practicality and efficiency of natural gas in lieu of traditional fuel oil. Clean, efficient and cheap natural gas seems like a perfect fit for this dense population corridor. But, as so often
is the case, NY state officials, led by Cuomo, assume they know better
than their citizenry.

Cuomo has stopped any efforts to produce oil and gas from the rich deposits in-state. That means for National Grid, it has to import vast quantities of natural gas despite the practical, efficient and economy-boosting supplies of gas available nearby. The obvious solution was to build a pipeline from New Jersey where gas supplies were flowing so the Constitution Pipeline was conceived and designed to be that solution.

Then Cuomo decided to go after pipelines. Of course, banning ban pipelines is an essential principal of radical environmental groups and Cuomo, for whatever reason, has drank that poisoned Kool-Aid.

Understandably, National Grid was having trouble meeting not only current needs of its customers but anticipated increased demand as well. So, in May, as the battle for the Constitution Pipeline raged on, it should have come as no surprise to anyone when National Grid was forced to issue the bad news; it announced a moratorium on gas hook-ups. Come winter, there simply wouldn’t be enough supply to meet additional needs without the pipeline transporting additional gas.

Cuomo, faced with rising criticism and potentially leaving 1,100 customers (read ‘voters’) without heat as winter approached, decided to lash out against National Grid. He blamed the utility for mishandling the gas supply system. He claims National Grid did not explore alternative options for supplying gas to stranded customers. Cuomo went so far as to suggest transporting gas by trucks or rail. Cuomo is demanding action, or he’ll find a way revoke National Grid’s license to operate.

Admittedly, truck or rail transportation is an option, albeit a poor one. I’m confident that was already considered. National Grid was probably not too thrilled with the expensive, inefficient and much less desirable options of shipping large quantities of gas via trucks or rail. The safety and environmental record of those transportation options are horrendous when compared to pipeline transportation. Toronto and other areas have experienced disastrous consequences of railroad shipping. Trucking gas and oil has a long and well-documented history of leaks and spills. Pipelines are the safest, most reliable and generally most economical method to transport energy.

Apparently, none of that means anything to Cuomo or his cronies. In his mind, anti-carbon politics are worth making the citizens of New York suffer as pawns in his political games, no matter what the cost.

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