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National Grid stops processing new natural gas service applications

A commercial gas meter in Riverhead for National

A commercial gas meter in Riverhead for National Grid. Credit: Newsday/Mark Harrington

On the heels of the state’s rejection of its gas pipeline application, a “disappointed” National Grid on Thursday said it has stopped processing new applications for service for all levels of customers — residential, small business and large development projects, a top official said Thursday.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation on Wednesday rejected a water quality permit application for the so-called Northeast Supply Enhancement project, saying the project as conceived would “result in water quality violations” while failing to meet the state’s water quality standards.

The review left open the prospect that developer Williams Transco could supply information in coming weeks and months to address the state's concerns.

Until then, said National Grid, applications for new service are on hold.

“We are not processing new applications for any new customers,” said National Grid New York President John Bruckner on Thursday. “We’ll continue to receive requests for service, but we’re not processing them.”  

Bruckner said the company has stopped short of declaring a full moratorium on new service requests — calling the notifications that are going out now “contingency” notices linking future service to full approval of all applications for the gas pipeline. New Jersey has yet to issue a ruling on its water quality permit, which is needed because the pipeline also traverses waterways in that state.

The DEC “went through the application in a diligent way, and they have questions,” Bruckner said. National Grid partner Williams “feels very confident they’ll be able to provide information to mitigate the DEC’s concerns. That doesn’t mean all the DEC’s concerns will be mitigated,” he said.

National Grid each year receives around 7,800 new requests for residential service and home oil-to-gas conversions. Starting Thursday, those customers will now receive the same notices National Grid has been sending to prospective large- and mid-sized customers for several months, saying future service was contingent on the project receiving all approvals.

“From our standpoint they are on hold,” Bruckner said of those projects requesting service. “We will not commit to providing them service.”

Projects such as the Belmont Park redevelopment have already been told National Grid cannot provide firm gas service without the new pipeline, which would bring an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to the region. Some 24 miles of the $1 billion project are under New York waters, but it requires no modifications on land.

Environmentalists and other opponents accuse National Grid of fabricating the shortage to tie the region to a fossil-fuel future, which opponents say flies in the face of the state’s goals of a green energy agenda. Some held rallies on Monday applauding the state’s decision, but saying they’d remain vigilant in opposing.

Supporters of the pipeline, including Long Island Association president Kevin Law, say they believe the DEC will change its mind when presented with all the information. “Ultimately I trust DEC will do the right thing and approve this project after the applicant addresses their concerns, because an outright denial would have worse immediate negative impacts to our region than the Amazon debacle,” Law said.

Bruckner said it’s “up to them” whether big customers such as Belmont seek alternatives in other types of fuel such as oil for their projects. For now, he said, “We cannot commit to providing Belmont firm service.”

Asked if National Grid had a backup plan if the project wasn’t approved to handle growth, Bruckner said the Northeast project “was our solution for additional load growth for the region. If the project isn’t approved, there is no plan B.”

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