November 21, 2019

New York’s Burgeoning Electricity Crisis

Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regime is causing major headaches for New Yorkers.

What happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object? When both are personified by Democrat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, one gets an eco-radical whose “carbon neutral” policies may end up leaving thousands of business owners, residents, and builders in Brooklyn, Queens, and on Long Island without reliable energy service.

“Cuomo is a proud opponent of fossil fuels,” the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board explains. “But now that the consequences of his policies are harming people in the real world — those who can’t afford to escape to Florida — the Governor is blaming others.”

Because the governor has blocked shale fracking upstate, as well as several pipelines that would deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania, upstate New Yorkers are paying some of the highest electric bills in the country — as in 40% more for electricity than the people of Pennsylvania, and 15% more than those in in New Jersey. Moreover, 25% of them still use heating oil, which costs about $1,000 more per year than natural gas — and emits 40% more CO2, the “greenhouse gas” that is the bane of those who believe mankind is the ultimate culprit on a planet headed for extinction, unless we kowtow to the will of our internationalist overlords.

Overlords whose own commitment to eco-purity is overshadowed by a deeper commitment to mansions, limousines, private jets.

Last March, as a result of the aforementioned pipeline constraint championed by the governor, New York utility Con Edison halted natural-gas connections north of New York City. Last May, another power provider, the British-owned National Grid, announced a moratorium on new gas hook-ups following a decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to nix a proposed pipeline known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement project.

National Grid insisted its gas capacity is maxed out, and without construction of the pipeline, it couldn’t guarantee uninterrupted service to existing customers. By contrast, Cuomo, other elected officials, and eco-advocates insist the utility company is holding its customers hostage to its demands for approval of the pipeline, and that the company never seriously investigated alternative methods of delivering energy.

Last month, Cuomo played both ends against the middle in an effort to escape the consequences of his policies. Earlier in the month, his administration ordered National Grid to provide electricity to 1,157 customers who had been denied service because of the moratorium on new hookups. The Public Service Commission (PSC), which licenses and oversees public utility companies, warned National Grid that a failure to do so would precipitate “millions of dollars in penalties.”

National Grid pledged to deliver the gas, but once again explained the obvious problem of meeting demand when supply is artificially constrained. “We stand by our analysis and there are very real gas supply constraints in the northeast,” stated said National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young in an email.

A little less than two weeks later, in the midst of further attacks on National Grid, Cuomo directed his animus at the PSC, despite the reality that the PSC is, as Politico put it, “a quasi-independent commission he effectively controls.” The governor wrote a letter to PSC Chairman John Rhodes in which he admitted that National Grid’s assertion of supply issues “was not a startling insight.” He excoriated Rhodes and his agency’s failure “to adequately anticipate, respond, or prevent this harm which was your regulatory duty.”

Cuomo persisted. “I also want to know when and how we eliminate an abusive utility from the state to protect consumers,” he added. “To that end, I want the specific explanation of potential grounds for revocation of National Grid’s license and its liability for the damage that has already been incurred and future damages which will be incurred over the following 12 to 18 months as development is delayed for additional projects is needed.”

On Nov. 12, Cuomo sent a letter to National Grid, giving the utility 14 days notice “of my intention to revoke National Grid’s certificate to operate its downstate gas franchise.” He also ordered the utility to explore “short-term options” he alleged the utility “either deliberately, negligently or incompetently refused to secure” to increase supply. They included transporting natural gas by tanker or truck, the proposal of other infrastructure, and the installation of additional unloading facilities, which he considered viable alternatives, courtesy of a company that he finds “grossly negligent” or one that “deliberately defrauded” the people of New York.

Yet as the Journal notes, several inconvenient realities intrude. “Building barges would require environmental permitting and is opposed by green groups in any case. National Grid already plans to deliver compressed natural gas by truck during the winter, but what if a snow storm closes roads?” The Journal’s editorial board further notes the irony of Cuomo’s pipeline veto below New York Harbor that “could reduce annual CO2 emissions by the equivalent of 500,000 cars on the road,” as opposed to his embargo, which “is raising state emissions.”

“National Grid is in receipt of the letter from Governor Cuomo and will review and respond accordingly within the timeframe outlined in the letter,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “We continue to work with all parties on these critical natural gas supply issues on behalf of all our customers in downstate New York.”

In the meantime, Cuomo boasted about his leverage: “This would be one of the most lucrative franchises in the country.”

Perhaps, but one might think if the governor makes good on his promise to end National Grid’s franchise, getting another utility willing to be browbeaten by the governor, hamstrung by the PSC, and very likely sued by a number of the state’s eco-warriors for any attempt to provide power that doesn’t comport with the state’s agenda to be “carbon neutral” by 2050, might prove problematic.

It is worth remembering that New York also sued energy giant Exxon for alleged securities fraud related to global warming. “Additionally, more than a dozen ‘public nuisance’ lawsuits seek to hold energy companies responsible for billions of taxpayer dollars spent on acclimating to a warming world, or picking up the pieces following unprecedented hurricanes, floods and wildfires,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Rhode Island filed such a complaint last year, while a dozen city governments from California, Washington, Colorado, Maryland and New York have also sued.”

What they haven’t done? They haven’t given up using fossil fuels. Gas stations are still open, homes are still being heated and cooled, and the numerous products — many of which are critical to maintaining a modern society — are still being sold.

In other words, eco-talk is cheap. Moreover, what is happening in New York is a great harbinger in miniature of the devastating real-world consequences that the Democrat Party’s Green New Deal would engender.

Everyone wants a clean planet. But magic solutions, whereby reliance on fossil fuels can simply be mandated away by eco-warriors — many of whom will buy “carbon offsets” in a self-serving effort to preserve their own greenhouse gas-spewing lifestyles — and their overwhelming hypocrisy — aren’t part of the equation.

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