Governor Andrew Cuomo has drawn a line in the sand for National Grid, giving the utility company 14 days to restore gas service to 1,100 customers in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island or the state will revoke its certificate to operate its downstate gas franchise.
In a letter to National Grid CEO John Pettigrew and President John Bruckner, Cuomo said National Grid showed “reckless disregard” for its customers after it declared a moratorium on service to new and returning customers since May in response to continued state opposition to the $1 billion Williams pipeline project.
“The essential responsibility for a utility to provide adequate and reliable service is to manage the supply and demand,” Cuomo wrote. “The very lack of supply you now point to as the reason for your denial of service to thousands of customers exhibits your failure to plan for supply needs.”
Cuomo added that there are only two theories to explain National Grid’s actions.
“Either National Grid was grossly negligent in relying exclusively on the speculative construction of a private pipeline to meet the demands that it was statutorily required to provide; or, National Grid deliberately defrauded the people of the state by not developing or pursuing existing supply options to force approval and reliance on a private pipeline to further their business interests at the cost of the consumer,” Cuomo wrote.
A spokeswoman for National Grid received the governor’s letter and will review and respond accordingly within the 14 days.
“We continue to work with all parties on these critical natural gas supply issues on behalf of all our customers in downstate New York.”
The state denied permits for the Williams pipeline project twice over concerns it would contaminate New York Harbor during its construction. Cuomo stated that even if the pipeline were permitted 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, and that National Grid did not have a plan for supplying the region adequately as this winter sets in.
“I appreciate Governor Cuomo stepping up to help protect residents across the city, especially my constituents on the Rockaway Peninsula and northern mainland communities,” state Senator Joseph Addabbo said. “Nat Grid should not be allowed to hold these residents, some who are still not back in their homes after losing everything to Superstorm Sandy, hostage by not providing it vital gas service, especially with winter right around the corner.”
The Stop the Williams Pipeline Coalition, which includes organizations such as the Rockaway Beach Civic Association and Ocean Action Research Rockaway, thanked Cuomo for listening to the people while showing climate leadership by standing up to National Grid’s disastrous moratorium scare tactics.
“Now is the moment for New York State to fund renewable solutions and set the path to get off gas as dozens of other cities across the nation are doing,” the group said. “This is a huge opportunity to go all-in on community-led solutions as the Climate Leadership And Community Protect Act, signed into law this year, requires us to reduce emissions.”
Cuomo wrote that the utility’s failure to address the supply issue, the abuse of their customers, the adverse economic impact caused by stalling private development, and the associated diminution of tax revenues to local government, clearly demonstrate that National Grid’s operations were not in the public interest.
“I was Attorney General of this state,” Cuomo told NY1. “My job is to protect consumers, protect the citizens of this state. National Grid’s job is to protect its shareholders. I get it, but I’m not going to let the people of New York be bullied and exploited. I’m not going to do that. Not as long as I’m in this seat.”