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State AG seeking complaints about National Grid gas moratorium

New York State Attorney General Letitia James during

New York State Attorney General Letitia James during a press conference at her Manhattan office on May 2. Credit: Charles Eckert

Special-education teacher Kristen Geigenberger got the scare of her life on Halloween after closing on a new condo in Medford. With keys in hand, she called utilities to start her service, only to discover that National Grid refused to turn on gas service to the unit.

“I was speechless,” she said. She and her boyfriend have visited the heatless apartment in layers of clothes, covered in blankets, every day since — and leave for the night.

“We can’t stay because we can’t take hot showers,” she said. “I’ve been living with my parents” in Holbrook.

Geigenberger said she will be among the first New Yorkers to register a formal complaint about National Grid on a new online portal set up by state Attorney General Letitia James this week, seeking information from customers affected by National Grid’s moratorium on new hookups.

“National Grid denied necessary service to thousands of New Yorkers in an attempt to strong arm our state into approving a pipeline that would hurt the environment and our water supply,” James said in a statement. “The moratorium continues to have a profound effect on individuals, small businesses, and New York’s economy, and will only get more problematic as the weather gets colder.”  

The attorney general’s complaint line can be accessed here: ag.ny.gov/national-grid-moratorium. James' office is investigating National Grid over the moratorium to determine if the company "misled its customers" and the state about the "need for widespread service disruptions. National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young said the company "will fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation and have already provided information as a result of recent inquiries from her office." 

James’ move comes a day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced he would move to revoke National Grid’s license to operate the downstate gas system, giving the company two weeks to explain why he shouldn’t. It follows months after the company declared a moratorium on new gas service after New York State twice rejected a permit for a $1 billion pipeline that National Grid said is needed to address a supply shortage. Environmental groups say the shortage is made up.

Young said the company “continues to work with New York State on short-term and long-term solutions to the natural gas supply constraints facing the region.”

Asked last week about Geigenberger’s situation, Young said the company could not restore service to the apartment because of the time she applied for a hookup.

“Unfortunately, the customer doesn't fit within the Implementation Order filing” by the Public Service Commission demanding that National Grid provide service to some 1,100 who were incorrectly denied gas. “We are only activating inactive accounts who called for but were denied service between May 15 through September,” Young said. Geigenberger called on Oct. 31.

Geigenberger said she’s received several conflicting responses from National Grid representatives about why the company can’t hook up her service, including one claim that it was turned off for nonpayment, she said. She’s filed a complaint with the state Department of Public Service as well as the attorney general. And she’s considering installing a water heater, for $900, to heat the place and the shower water in the interim.

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