The New York Energy Conundrum – Natural Gas, Pipelines and Activists, Oh My!

New York has put itself in quite a conundrum – the state needs more natural gas to meet the growing demand called for in its state energy plan, yet has banned fracking and continues to block important infrastructure projects needed to supply that gas. As Business Council of New York chief executive Heather Briccetti recently explained:

“Despite the tremendous growth in demand for natural gas, New York hasn’t added enough natural gas pipeline capacity. The increased use of natural gas by households, businesses and electric generators has strained current natural gas infrastructure, resulting in occasional curtailments of supply.”

Briccetti also noted in a recent opinion piece in the Albany Times Union that “[t]he state’s reluctance to approve natural gas pipelines and other fossil fuel projects serves only to stunt economic growth,” while also saying,

“Expanding access to affordable energy cuts to the heart of all three challenges and has the potential for a multiplier effect — strengthening the state’s economy, reducing electric bills and serving as a catalyst for sustained job growth.”

Instead, New York has continued to give in to the demands of fringe activists and disillusioned Hollywood celebrities, who have targeted pipelines to prevent consumers from realizing the benefits of the affordable, abundant Marcellus gas available just across the border in Pennsylvania.

Take for instance a protest that occurred over the weekend. Protesters, led by anti-fossil fuel activist Bill McKibben and actor James Cromwell (Farmer Hoggett in Babe) gathered in Albany to demand New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo deny the final permit for the Millennium pipeline because it is slated to bring Marcellus gas to a natural gas-fired power plant that’s currently under construction. The rationale? The protesters want more renewable energy and are worried this plant will lead to more natural gas-fired power plants.

Now here’s where the irony really kicks in. The 680-megawatt plant has all of the permits it needs and is expected to begin operating in 2018. But if the natural gas feedstock for the plant is unavailable because the Millennium doesn’t get permitted, “CPV could generate power with fuel oil,” according to plant spokesman Mike McKeon.

In other words, the power plant will be operational next year regardless of this pipeline. But if the protesters successfully keep New York from issuing the final permit for the Millennium, they will also be preventing the plant from reducing its greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions significantly across the board: carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury (Hg) and particulate matter.

Let that madness sink in for a minute.

Like most of what goes on in New York with regard to energy, it makes little sense, and the question remains: Will the state deny yet another pipeline that would bring such tremendous environmental and economic benefits to the

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