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Hostage-Taking New Tactic In Offshore Natural Gas Pipeline Wars

Hundreds of buildings are “pipeline pawns” in the war over a proposed offshore natural gas pipeline connecting New Jersey and New York City.

Wow, they’re not kidding around in the Empire State. The energy company National Grid is claiming that New York’s decision to nix a new natural gas pipeline has resulted in a gas shortage, and they can’t provide gas hookups to hundreds of buildings in New York City and elsewhere. Now it looks like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has just called their bluff, which brings up the question: was there ever really a shortage?

offshore natural gas pipeline

A proposed new offshore natural gas pipeline would cross Raritan Bay, from New Jersey to New York City (map via NYS DEC).

Natural Gas Pipelines & Building Electrification

To be clear about the motives here, the moratorium in New York State is not related to the building electrification movement.

The electrification trend has to do the small but growing number of cities that are denying natural gas hookups to new buildings. They are racing to meet their renewable energy goals and, more recently, jumping at the chance to transition into money-saving renewable energy opportunities.

The construction industry also seems to be a big fan, as electrification relieves builders from the extra permit process. Individual building owners are also tuning into the idea that all-electric is cleaner and safer.

What’s going on in New York State is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Far from involving a renewable energy goal, it involves building a new natural gas pipeline to bring more fossil fuel to more of the energy consuming public.

What’s Up With The Williams Natural Gas Pipeline?

The pipeline in question is a natural gas pipeline proposed by the Oklahoma-based firm Williams under the name of “Northeast Supply Enhancement Project.”

The $1 billion, 23-mile offshore gas pipeline project would expand the existing Transco pipeline. It would bring natural gas originating from points west to the shores of New Jersey, and from there underneath the waters of the Raritan Bay and over to the Rockaways in New York City.

Williams argues that the fresh supply of gas is needed to replace heating oil, which New York City is trying to ditch.

However, if you caught that thing about offshore gas pipeline, so did the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Earlier this year the agency reviewed Williams’s application to build the pipeline. On May 15 it announced the verdict: Nope.

DEC denied the construction permit upon determining that the new new pipeline would “result in water quality violations and fails to meet New York State’s rigorous water quality standards.”

In particular, DEC nailed the project for digging up old sediments, resulting in the “re-suspension of sediments and other contaminants, including mercury and copper.”

Then there’s the disturbing of the shellfish beds and other “benthic resources,” but at this point who’s counting?

Hostage-Taking & The Williams Pipeline

Apparently National Grid didn’t read the fine print. As of August the company was still holding on to a backlog of 2,600 new gas hookups in Brooklyn, Queens, and other parts of Long Island.

That figure includes businesses as well as residences that previously had a hookup but which were undergoing renovation.

And, apparently Governor Cuomo is having none of it. Last week, Cuomo announced that he was ordering National Grid to get those hookups done, pipeline or no pipeline.

CBS2 TV is taking credit for drawing the Governor’s attention to the hookup issue last summer, through its “pipeline pawns” series. With the cold weather approaching, it’s no time for fooling around.

Good work, Marcia Kramer!

What’s Next For The New Gas Pipeline

The Brooklyn Eagle has also been all over the pipeline story and has reported that the Governor has launched an investigation into National Grid’s claims of a a looming natural gas shortage in New York City.

If they made the whole thing up, there could be trouble.

Meanwhile, New Jersey isn’t having any of it, either.

Last June, New Jersey DEP took a look at the proposal and also said nope.

On the other hand, both New Jersey and New York left Williams with some wiggle room to reapply, so it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

CleanTechnica is reaching out to some of the no-pipeline peeps for the latest update, so stay tuned for more on that.

Follow me on Twitter.

Image: New York State Marine and Coastal District via NYS DEC.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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