National Grid will lift its moratorium and begin connecting more than 1,100 customers in Queens and Brooklyn to natural gas service after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the utility to comply or face millions of dollars in fines.
The company had denied service to new and returning customers since May in response to continued opposition to the $1 billion Williams pipeline project, which was denied a permit by the state’s Department of Environmental Prevention over concerns it would contaminate New York Harbor.
Cuomo announced on Friday the Department of Public Service would expand its investigations into National Grid’s conduct and whether it had prepared properly for meeting the needs of its customers given that the utility faces supply constraints this winter. If the Williams pipeline were permitted to be constructed under New York Harbor to bring fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to a terminus three miles off the coast of Rockaway Beach, it 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 be under review.
“It is the fundamental responsibility of our utilities to provide reliable service,” Cuomo said. “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. Today, National Grid is being ordered to immediately connect those 1,100 customers, and I have directed DPS to expand their ongoing investigation to include potential negligence in not preparing for the month ahead. Make no mistake: New York will hold National Grid responsible.”
After the preliminary conclusion of the Service Commission’s investigation. PSC Chairman John Rhodes issued an order to show cause directing National Grid to immediately connect 1,157 residential and small commercial customers, and to implement an alternative supply and demand reduction plan to ensure the safety and reliability of the gas system. The order also commences a penalty proceeding against the utility for alleged violations of the Public Service Law.
“With the winter heating season beginning, the Department of Public Service has determined that immediate action is warranted to address the customer hardships created by National Grid’s unwarranted denial of service for 1,157 of its customers in New York City and Long Island,” Rhodes said. “The law requires utilities to provide gas service without unreasonable qualifications or lengthy delay when sufficient gas supply exists, which the order alleges is the case for these previously existing customers on National Grid who found themselves suddenly cut off from gas without adequate warning and preparation.”
Just hours after Cuomo laid down the law, National Grid reversed course and vowed it would lift the moratorium.
“We are obviously disappointed in the NY PSC’s Order issued today,” A National Grid spokeswoman said. “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.”