Democratic District Leader Josue Pierre, a candidate for incumbent State Sen. Kevin Parker‘s seat, questioned his opponent’s financial ties to NationalGrid, but Parker was quick to fire back at Pierre’s inability to jump into the weeds of the ongoing issue surrounding the utility company.
Currently, NationalGrid has issued a moratorium on allowing new gas service for New York customers unless the state approves the Williams Pipeline, which will allow more natural gas to flow from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The company maintains without a moratorium and the pipeline it may not have enough gas to supply the crucial heating needs of millions of people in the New York City Metropolitan area this coming winter.
On the other side, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, through the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has refused to allow the pipeline. The governor, along with many environmentalists and local elected officials have opposed the project and been vocal about their frustration with the moratorium.
“Instead of fighting for our community, Kevin Parker is supporting the pipeline in Albany, ducking questions here at home, and taking thousands of dollars from National Grid while they refuse to give our community access to service. Who does he work for?,” said Pierre in a release. “If Kevin Parker wants us to believe he’s not on the side of National Grid, he needs to return their money immediately.”
The dollars Pierre referred to were $300 in campaign contributions given to Parker by NationalGrid itself, $5,600 given by the NationalGrid Voluntary PAC and $23,200 from Independent Power Producers of New York (IPPNY). “If Kevin Parker wants us to believe he’s not on the side of National Grid, he needs to return their money immediately,” said Pierre.
Parker doesn’t see a reason to return those contributions, citing that there was nothing illegal with receiving them.
“Why would I return them? I’m trying to see why that is even a story to talk about. I received legal contributions within the context of the limits and the laws of the State of New York. So why is that a problem?” asked Parker.
“I’ve already said what [NationalGrid] is doing around the moratorium is absolutely wrong, it’s inappropriate. I called BS on them. They don’t need to do this moratorium. I said that and I’ve been on the record of saying that,” Parker added
Parker said Pierre’s accusation that doesn’t even make sense on its face.
“‘I can’t criticize them, because I’ve received money from them.’ But I’m already criticizing them,” Parker said, noting his strong ratings from the New York League of Conservation Voters.
On the Williams Pipeline, Parker refuses to take a position, noting that it’s an executive branch DEC decision and not state lawmakers.
“The pipeline is decided by DEC not the State legislature. I’m not taking responsibility for something I have no authority over. I have no authority over whether a pipeline is approved or doesn’t get approved. So being for it or against it is irrelevant because DEC is going to do what DEC does, based on the merits,” said Parker, who mentioned that he doesn’t believe DEC would change their opinion.
“Show me one example where DEC listened to a legislator or a group of legislators on a decision they were making based on the merits of a project. Give me one example and I’ll give you a thousand dollars,” he said.
NationalGrid has previously claimed that without the pipeline it will “not be able to meet the natural gas needs for homeowners who want to convert to gas heat, businesses looking to expand or builders planning new construction projects”. In August, National Grid New York Vice President Melanie Littlejohn noted that the moratorium could go on for several years if the Williams pipeline would not become a reality.
The actual opposition to the moratorium serves as a point of agreement for both Parker and Pierre.
“The moratorium is a choice by National Grid to hold families hostage because they want their pipeline. It’s not required in any way. National Grid can supply Brooklyn’s families with power the second they choose to. If they insist they can’t, then what we need immediately is a public utility that puts power in the hands of the people,” said Pierre.
Parker noted that the company has other alternatives to the Williams pipeline to increase their energy supply.
“There are other things [NationalGrid] could do. They can put in conservation measures, they can go to the spot market and buy gas, they can do heat pumps. There are lots of things they can do that they have not done. […] Myself, and Chairman Cusick, the chair of the Assembly’s Energy Committee, are doing a joint public hearing on October 16, to bring NationalGrid and hold them on the carpet on this very thing. So that’s what I’ve done. What has [Pierre] done?” asked Parker. “I’m really not interested in what Johnny-come-latelys have to say about my record.”
Parker’s 21st Senate district includes East Flatbush, Flatbush, Midwood, Ditmas Park, Kensington, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace.