In what is becoming an all too common tale out of New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) has once again denied a permit for a pipeline that is needed to meet the increasing demand for natural gas in places like New York City (NYC) and Boston. Making matters worse, last week’s NYDEC denial was issued despite the fact the project has received federal approval.
The proposed Northern Access Pipeline would deliver gas from the Marcellus Shale in McKean County, Pa., into Erie County, N.Y., where it would then connect to the existing TransCanada and Tennessee pipeline systems to reach consumers in NYC and Boston. The $455 million project has been projected to create 1,000 to 1,200 jobs during construction.
As of February, the pipeline had received all of the necessary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permits, and after years of impact studies, was simply awaiting the DEC’s decision. According to Ronald J. Tanski, President and Chief Executive Officer of National Fuel Gas Company, which has been waiting on NYDEC approval to begin construction on the pipleline, “the NYS DEC waited literally until the 11th hour to issue this denial, even though we had detailed discussions with NYS DEC staff over a 34-month period and undertook detailed engineering and environmental studies at the agency’s request, to support the stream-crossing techniques that now form the basis of their denial.”
Further, the decision completely ignores National Fuel’s sterling history of pipeline construction on multiple NYDEC-approved projects from 2005 to 2015, namely the Empire Connector, Tioga County Extension, and Tuscarora Lateral that consist of “110 total miles of pipeline and crossing 104 streams and 182 wetlands, and utilizing the same proposed construction practices with an excellent environmental record.”
Not only does this decision disregard the environmental impact studies conducted and National Fuel’s history of safely constructing and operating pipelines in New York, but as Tanski also notes, the decision is “inconsistent with the Clean Water Act” and “attempts to set a new standard that cannot possibly be met by any infrastructure project in the state that crosses streams or wetlands, whether it is a road, bridge, water, or an energy infrastructure project.”
How is New York going to sustain its considerable natural gas consumption?
As Tanski points out in his response and EID has noted on several occasions, New York is a major consumer of natural gas and has plans to increase its usage. In fact, the state announced in the same week that it banned fracking that it would increase its natural gas consumption. Tanski’s remarks echo sentiments EID and others across Upstate New York have pondered for years:
“Moreover, we are highly concerned about the ability of utilities in the state to meet the future energy needs of their consumers and the businesses and industries that drive the state’s economy. New York’s continued denial of permits for energy infrastructure projects is simply not sustainable, as it will have the effect of reducing New York’s energy reliability, lead to higher costs for consumers and be a limiting factor in the ability for industry to locate or expand in the state. While New York proclaims that it is ‘open for business,’ and ‘a premier place to invest and grow,’ the NYS DEC’s action belies that claim.
Today, 57 percent of the electric generation capacity in the state is powered by natural gas, and, as more coal and nuclear power plants are scheduled to be shut down, new gas-fired plants are being built in their place. Additional natural gas infrastructure is essential to connect nearby, growing supply areas to New York consumers. As New York continues a long-term transition to more and more renewable electric generation, it is essential for the natural gas industry to stand ready, at a moment’s notice, to provide the gas supply necessary to generate the power to support the reliability of the power grid. National Fuel remains committed to this energy infrastructure project that will be an important contributor to the energy dependability and economic vibrancy of New York state.” (emphasis added)
With New York continuously falling prey to “Keep It in the Ground” and anti-fracking activists that are set on spreading misinformation and delaying projects, it begs the question: How will New York sustain its energy needs and avoid skyrocketing energy prices if it continues to refuse permits for new natural gas infrastructure?
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