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Grid steps up pressure to get state approval of undersea pipeline

The company says it needs the project, which would increase local gas capacity by 14 percent, to meet demand.

National Grid is seeking state approval for a

National Grid is seeking state approval for a 24-mile gas pipeline, which includes about 18 miles under New York Bay and connects with existing infrastructure at sea beyond the Rockaways. Photo Credit: Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.

National Grid will begin notifying the dozens of midsize companies that apply for new natural-gas service that it won’t be able to supply them with firm gas service if a new undersea pipeline fails to win state approval, a company official said.

It's the latest move by the company to highlight its need for a supply project that would increase local gas capacity by 14 percent, easing demand constraints, National Grid says. Con Edison has issued similar moratorium alerts.

The latest letters this week will include a footnote that tells customers their future service is "contingent on the successful and timely approval and permitting" of the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a $1 billion pipeline to bring an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to the region, connecting to existing infrastructure in the Rockaways, the company official said Tuesday.

National Grid announced in February that it had put 35 large customers on notice about a potential moratorium on new gas service, informing them of its inability to supply “firm” gas service to planned projects such as the redevelopment of Belmont Park. The new notifications to midsize customers — those with businesses of around 15,000 square feet — is the latest move by the company to highlight the need for the new pipeline.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has previously rejected the company’s water quality permit application, and the state Public Service Commission has said several big development projects can move forward without new natural gas infrastructure. The DEC, in a statement, said it will “continue to rigorously evaluate these applications to protect public health and the environment and to ensure all applicable standards are met."

“We can’t make a commitment to new customers,” said John Bruckner, president of National Grid New York, a subsidiary of London-based National Grid, adding that the letters will go to 48 midsize customers with previous requests for service and to the two to three dozen new business customers that request gas service each week. “We’re giving them that information so that they can plan their businesses accordingly.”

National Grid has previously said that, if it fails to get the state permit by May 15, it will be forced to declare a moratorium on all new gas hookups for Long Island and New York City. Bruckner said that means all customers, including new residential hookups and those converting to gas service for their homes, will receive letters stating, “We will no longer be able to accept new applications for service.” National Grid receives around 7,800 new residential requests for service each year, including around 6,000 conversions from oil to natural gas, on Long Island and the Rockaways.

Bruckner said the move is the result of projections that show supply will not meet demand in coming years without the new pipeline, even with conservation measures and introduction of renewable gas projects in the region.

Environmental groups argue that expansion of fossil-fuel-based energy sources buck a statewide trend toward renewable resources. PSEG Long Island just this month released a new forecast projecting sharply lower energy use across Long Island in the next decade, because of lower expectations for economic growth and increased efficiency measures.

Bruckner declined to comment on those economic factors, but said National Grid’s projections are real and short term, particularly in light of record-setting natural gas demand this winter.

“I’m not looking out just 10 years,” he said. The increased gas demand is taking place “today and tomorrow ... I can’t hook them up without” the new pipeline.

National Grid’s New York operation has 590,000 customers on Long Island and 1.2 million in New York City.

The 24-mile gas project, to be developed by Williams Transco, would encompass about 18 miles of pipeline under New York Bay and connect with existing infrastructure at sea beyond the Rockaways.

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