Williams pipeline fight puts New Yorkers in middle of ‘feud’ between National Grid, state 

National Grid's moratorium on new gas service hookups is affecting thousands of New Yorkers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.
National Grid’s moratorium on new gas service hookups is affecting thousands of New Yorkers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. Photo Credit: NYPD

Thousands of New Yorkers are being denied gas service while a battle continues over a proposed offshore pipeline.

National Grid has a backlog of 2,600 applications for new or expanded service in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island that will only be processed if the state approves the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a spokeswoman said. The project, proposed by the Oklahoma-based energy company Williams, includes a 23-mile pipeline through New York Harbor, from New Jersey to the Rockaways.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation denied permits for the project twice, most recently in May, because construction would pollute the water with mercury, copper and other contaminants. Williams resubmitted its application days after the denial, and the DEC has another year to approve or deny it.

Since the most recent denial, National Grid has declared a moratorium in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, saying its current infrastructure has reached capacity and it cannot fulfill new requests for gas hookups without the Williams Pipeline. 

But local officials aren’t convinced there is a supply issue, saying the utility is just using the moratorium to pressure the state to approve the pipeline, which Williams had hoped would be ready by winter 2020. The state’s Department of Public Service is currently investigating the decision to stop processing new requests, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday directed the department to “consider alternatives to National Grid as franchisee for some or all of the areas it currently serves” if it cannot provide service.

Meanwhile, new homeowners, small businesses and building managers don’t know what to do without gas service. 

“It’s unfair that the citizens of the area that National Grid services are being punished for a feud between Gov. Cuomo and National Grid,” said Steven Feldman, who is purchasing a house in Woodmere, Long Island, and needs to replace an old oil boiler. 

“I already had natural gas coming into the house for cooking for the stove and I wanted to just increase my service load so I could purchase a new boiler that would be energy efficient, that would save me money as well as be better for the environment,” he explained. Feldman, 30, also brought in a contractor to see if there were other options but was told there weren’t alternatives to oil or gas.

James Snook, the project manager for a newly constructed six-unit condo in Carroll Gardens, questioned why National Grid didn’t warn him earlier that there would be a gas shortage. He put in his application for gas service a year ago, but wasn’t told about the moratorium until recently when he followed up after the completion of the building. 

“I have gas boilers, I have gas stoves, I have a gas hot-water heater, I have gas dryers; all of these were installed under the premise that you had my application over a year ago to provide me with gas,” he said. “They should have told builders when they put their applications in that they weren’t going to be able to have gas.”

Snook, 67, added that he worked for Con Edison for decades and “never heard of such a thing as not providing service.”

Dozens of other residents and business owners have reported similar situations to local officials, and based on National Grid’s backlog of applications, Snook and Feldman are among thousands of New York residents and businesses being denied gas service.

Williams is seeking state approval for a new offshore pipeline, which would run through the New York Harbor.
Williams is seeking state approval for a new offshore pipeline, which would run through the New York Harbor. Photo Credit: Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line C

National Grid insists that adding additional service without the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project “would pose a risk to the integrity of our system and compromise natural gas use for our existing firm customers.”

The company has purchased additional gas supplies on the short-term spot market, but it says that “is not a sustainable operational solution for providing reliable and long-term natural gas service to customers.

“When we sign customers up, we are committing to providing them with an uninterrupted supply of natural gas. Without NESE, we can’t make that firm commitment to new customers or those looking to expand their current service,” the company said in a statement.

The pipeline is sharply opposed by a coalition of environmental groups that have protested it for years. And possible environmental threats are a concern for some of the homeowners requesting new gas service.

“I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt the environment, but there has to be some sort of compromise that will make it not harmful to the environment as well as beneficial to the consumer,” Feldman said. 

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