Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday ordered the Department of Public Service to broaden an investigation into National Grid’s moratorium on new gas service hookups for customers, calling for penalties or even the loss of its franchise if the state finds the London-based provider is refusing service “improperly.”
Cuomo in a letter to the Department of Public Service said he’d received reports of customers who were refused service for construction projects initiated well in advance of the company’s threatened moratorium on new hookups earlier this year.
Environmental groups have accused the company of fabricating a gas-supply shortage to manipulate the state into approving the Northeast Supply Enhancement project, a proposed $1 billion project by Williams Co. to provide an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas to the region per day. National Grid has denied those charges, saying the project is needed to meet soaring regional demand.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation in May denied needed water quality permits for the project, which would run 24 miles under New York waters, saying it would result in water quality violations. Williams has resubmitted its application and awaits a review that could take until next May.
National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young, in a statement, said, “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 the company has been "working closely with the Department of Public Service Staff and its consultants to support the Commission’s investigations 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.”
Cuomo in his letter went so far as to direct the DPS to consider alternatives to National Grid if the claims about failure to properly service customers are true.
“If National Grid is unable to provide safe, affordable and reliable service to existing customers, or is unable to properly plan so that it is able to serve new customers, I direct you to consider alternatives to National Grid as franchisee for some or all of the areas it currently serves,” he wrote.
Cuomo said he’d received reports that National Grid had refused to reconnect service to customers who had temporarily suspended their gas supply to make renovations, including to homes, businesses and a senior center.
“If these reports are accurate, National Grid's refusal to resume service could endanger the health and safety of New Yorkers,” Cuomo wrote. “Affected homeowners likely include families without the means to secure alternative residences, and National Grid's refusal of service could deprive these families of heat as temperatures fall.”
Cuomo called for “penalties and sanctions” against National Grid if the department finds National Grid is improperly denying service, and for the state to take “any steps” needed to make sure it provides service to those who were wrongly denied.