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Business groups urge Cuomo to approve gas line, end moratorium

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Aug. 6.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Aug. 6. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for a stepped-up probe into potentially “improper” gas shut-offs by National Grid, five Long Island business and building-trade groups sent a letter urging the governor to approve a pipeline at the center of the gas company’s moratorium.

Local businesses and homeowners seeking new gas hookups have been receiving letters from National Grid since earlier this year saying the company can’t commit to any firm new service without the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement project, a $1 billion pipeline that will travel 24 miles under New York waterways. Environmental groups say National Grid has fabricated a gas shortage to tie the region to a fossil-fuel future.

The two-page letter to Cuomo from the largest developer, building trade and business groups on Long Island makes no mention of the reason the state Department of Environmental Conservation in May rejected developer Williams Co.’s request for a water quality permit for the project.

Instead, the letter, from the Association for a Better Long Island, the Long Island Association, the Long Island Builders Institute, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk and the Long Island Federation of Labor, cites the groups’ “tremendous concern” over the moratorium, calling it “widespread and all-encompassing.”

Cuomo's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. 

The latest moves come after a summer of contention over the pipeline that would bring vast new gas supply to the National Grid service area at a time when Cuomo is steering the state toward exclusively green energy. New York State has twice rejected a water-quality permit for the project, citing toxic sediment impacts from laying the line 24 miles under New York Bay. Developer Williams Co. has resubmitted its applications and the state issue a final ruling by next May.

The business groups wrote Cuomo that it is “critical” that the DEC approve the project permits to end the moratorium. “Otherwise eight years of your successful economic development efforts on Long Island will be significantly threatened,” they said.

Asked why the groups' letter didn’t address the state's environmental concerns, Kyle Strober, executive director of the ABLI, said those were “technical issues” between the DEC and Williams.

“Clearly, the DEC’s concerns are not insurmountable, as the DEC allowed the applicant to resubmit quickly,” Strober said.

But environmental groups take a different view. Peter Gollon, the former energy chairman of the Long Island Sierra Club, recently wrote to the state as a "Long Island resident" raising questions about National Grid’s growth projections and the moratorium.

National Grid’s business model “totally ignores both the need to decarbonize our economy as well as specific state goals,” wrote Gollon, who has a doctorate in nuclear physics and sits on the LIPA board of trustees. He charged National Grid’s “supposed” reasons for the pipeline are “the result of its own inaction.”

The company didn't immediately respond. 

Cuomo on Tuesday ordered the state Department of Public Service to broaden an investigation into National Grid’s moratorium, calling for penalties or even the loss of its franchise if the state finds National Grid is refusing service “improperly.”

Cuomo said he’d received reports of customers who were refused service for construction projects initiated well in advance of the moratorium, or who temporarily suspended service for a renovation.

National Grid, which since early this year has said supply constraints are real, on Tuesday said it would “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.”

The company said it 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.”

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