Cuomo Tightens Screws On National Grid

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Governor Andrew Cuomo today ordered National Grid to immediately connect more than 1,100 residential customers to natural gas service or face the Public Service Commission (PSC) leveling millions of dollars of fines on the utility company.

Cuomo also ordered the PSC  to expand its ongoing investigation to examine whether the company properly planned for reliably meeting the needs of its customers given that the utility faces supply constraints this winter.

Cuomo’s sharp words come as the state and National Grid are deadlocked centered around the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s rejection earlier this year of a proposal from National Grid to build the 37-mile Williams Cos Inc’s Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline that would tap into an existing pipeline stretching from Pennsylvania to New York City.

According to National Grid, the pipeline has become an urgent need, as the economy in New York City is booming, and their current pipeline is at capacity. Thus, they imposed the moratorium meant to prevent a gas shortage during colder days which would result due to the lack of NESE.

But Cuomo noted today that National Grid’s proposed pipeline, if permitted, would not be in service until December 2020 at the earliest. There are alternative forms of gas delivery beyond pipelines; their failure to adequately anticipate this issue and provide for it will immediately be under review, he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“It is the fundamental responsibility of our utilities to provide reliable service,” said Cuomo. “National Grid has acted in bad faith throughout this process — first by denying over 1,100 eligible customers with service and now by failing to fulfill its core responsibility. Make no mistake, New York will hold National Grid accountable.”

National Grid responded that the utility company has always worked in the best interest of its 1.8 million customers in New York City and Long Island and is committed to providing them safe and reliable gas service.

“We are obviously disappointed in the NY PSC’s Order issued today.  We stand by our analysis and there are very real gas supply constraints in the northeast. In the meantime, we have been working to identify unprecedented temporary solutions to help mitigate this situation and will immediately begin connecting the more than 1,100 applicants who have been identified in the order,” National Grid said in a statement.

“With the current regional natural gas capacity constraints, long-term guaranteed supplies are still needed to connect customers and to maintain the safety and reliability of the gas system for all customers,” it added.

Borough President Eric Adams
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams supported Cuomo’s move saying the National Grid’s service moratorium that has put thousands of residential and small business customers at risk as temperatures begin to fall.

“Even with the news of potential multi-million dollar penalties and orders to connect a number of eligible customers, I continue to field concerns about the lack of clarity and transparency in who will get connected and when. I urge National Grid and the commission to deliver up-to-date notification to every customer denied service — both existing and potential — and to work through the holiday weekend if necessary to ensure that communication is immediate. New Yorkers deserve better,” said Adams.

“At the end of the day, my number one priority is addressing the affordable housing crisis in the borough. The investigations being conducted by PSC and the Attorney General’s office will help us determine whether National Grid truly needs the Williams Pipeline or is being dishonest. We have not yet gotten satisfactory answers about how we should move forward. The status quo is no longer acceptable,” he added.