Westchester government leaders and school superintendents are making a plea to Governor Cuomo to help find solutions to the moratorium on new gas service that Con Edison suddenly imposed on Westchester to go into affect on March 15. The moratorium affects both residential and commercial properties and would prevent developers of new construction and expansion of existing properties from access to gas service.
The letter says, “We do not need to tell you that the news has sent a chill throughout the development community. Given the number of projects already advancing in our cities, towns, and villages, from major redevelopment in cities like New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains, and Yonkers, to the smaller residential, commercial, mixed-use, and school construction projects taking place throughout the county, we are deeply concerned about the potential economic headwinds coming from such a resource crunch.”
The leaders ask the Governor to expedite Public Service Commission approval of a proposal from Con Edison called “Smart Solutions for Natural Gas” and to create incentives for the use of clean energy sources. They also ask for the Governor to intervene in clearing the way for a new gas pipeline to bring more natural gas to Westchester. The complete letter is shown below.
We spoke to Assemblywoman Amy Paulin about the moratorium and here are her comments:
“Con Edison surprised all of us with a very short window – two months – before they expect to impose the moratorium. They say that even a year ago they did not anticipate this moratorium. The reason they are imposing this moratorium is to ensure that you, their customer, has heat on the coldest day of the year. They have created this moratorium to preserve your supply.”
She explained that the pipelines that convey the gas are privately built and those companies have the right to sell the gas to whatever utility companies they choose.
When we asked why more pipelines had not been built, Paulin said, “Con Ed says they were encouraged to create a smart solution for use of geothermal, heat pumps and other renewables rather than build a pipeline … and the Public Service Commission says Con Edisonnever came to them with a pipeline solution.”
She continued, “There is no need to assess blame now. This is going to be our situation and we are going to have to make the best of it.” However if people decide to return to the use of oil and propane because there are not enough incentives for green solutions, they we have a problem.”
Here is a copy of the letter:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo,
As representatives of the New Yorkers who live and work in Westchester County, we are writing to ask for your assistance, your leadership, and your outside-the-box creative thinking in dealing with the newly-announced temporary moratorium for new natural gas services in our area.
As you know, on January 17, Con Edison formally announced to the Public Service Commission and to the general public that it would be instituting a temporary moratorium in most of its Westchester County service area for new natural gas services, including residential, commercial, or mixed-use buildings currently in development that will increase peak winter demand. The moratorium is scheduled to begin on March 15 – less than two months after it was announced – and would last for an indeterminate period of time. The only stated exceptions to the moratorium would be for new customers applying for interruptible service, gas service for emergency generators that only activate in the case of an electric outage, or other service patterns that would not be likely to impact gas delivery during peak winter usage.
We do not need to tell you that the news has sent a chill throughout the development community. Given the number of projects already advancing in our cities, towns, and villages, from major redevelopment in cities like New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains, and Yonkers, to the smaller residential, commercial, mixed-use, and school construction projects taking place throughout the county, we are deeply concerned about the potential economic headwinds coming from such a resource crunch. Those headwinds, on top of several other factors, could prove painful for our constituents and for the local economy. That could in turn have a ripple effect in terms of home prices and property values that further depress local economic development.
We were gratified to see the Public Service Commission take this issue so seriously and schedule public hearings in our region during the week of February 11. However, we believe that more creative and pro- active management is required to provide assurance that our region can effectively weather the major impact that this may have on our overall economy.
Specifically, we would appreciate the executive agencies of the state engaging in the following areas:
1.) Expedited Approval of “Smart Solutions” proposed by Con Edison
All of us support the state’s transition to sustainable, renewable, and green energy sources as critical to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, bending the dangerous trend lines of increased carbon emissions, and racing against the clock to fight the threats posed by climate change. Part of that effort has to include the successful promotion of clean energy alternatives that will have the added benefit of avoiding the negative impact natural gas moratorium on specific projects. We understand that Con Edison has submitted a number of proposals under the name “Smart Solutions for Natural Gas Customers.” These proposals for increasing the use of geothermal heating and air source heating pump solutions are pending review by the Public Service Commission. We urge that those proposals be placed on an expedited schedule so that they may be available to both new development and existing oil customers who are looking to convert to natural gas or some other method as soon as is practical.
2.) Additional Incentives to Make Green Energy Solutions More Attractive
Both the “Smart Solutions” proposals submitted by Con Edison and the programs of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority create incentives to increase usage of clean energy sources. However, we understand that the cost differential between traditional natural gas and these new cleaner sources of energy is still too steep in many cases. We would urge the executive agencies to proactively and creatively establish new incentive programs to decrease this gap and make it more economically viable for new development and those converting from oil heat to choose smarter, cleaner, and greener options, and that Westchester County be given first priority for any pilot projects stemming from these efforts.
3.) Spearhead new, creative solutions to the question of natural gas transmission
Clearly the underlying conditions involve an increased demand for natural gas, and the constraints of the current infrastructure are insufficient to supply that demand. The main conveyance for natural gas is through interstate or intrastate pipelines, but we live in a challenging regulatory and political environment for the construction of new pipelines for fossil fuels. There are often many legitimate objections raised by local communities and environmental advocates. Although a traditional response to the basic economics of supply and demand would focus on the quick approval of a new pipeline, new construction can take four or five years from the beginning of the approval process by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state agencies to the time when gas flows to the region, even when these objections from local communities and environmentalists can be accommodated. This raises the specter that the proposed moratorium could last for years before the underlying conditions improve.
Over the years of your service as Governor, you have time and again shown a unique ability to overcome obstacles to the major, critical infrastructure projects that New York relies upon for its economic wellbeing. Your leadership has helped surmount obstacles including outdated regulatory requirements, a lack of creativity in the engineering of a project, or an overreliance on conventional thinking when it comes to risk and financing.
For the sake of our county’s economic well-being and the residents and communities that rely upon ongoing development projects put at risk by this sudden and potentially long-lasting natural gas moratorium, we ask you to provide that same leadership, ingenuity, and outside-the-box thinking to our current problem. We are prepared to do what we can to work with you in this effort.
Sandra R. Galef Member of the Assembly
Amy R. Paulin, Member of the Assembly
Steve Otis Member of the Assembly
Terry Clements Westchester County Legislator
Damon R. Maher Westchester County Legislator
Josh Cohn Mayor, City of Rye
Thomas Roach Mayor, City of White Plains
Warren Lucas Supervisor, Town of North Salem
Michael Volpe Mayor, Village of Pelham
Dan Hochvert Mayor, Village of Scarsdale
Roy R. Montesano Ed.D., Superintendent Bronxville Union Free School District
Dr. Cheryl Champ, Superintendent Pelham Union Free School District
Eric Byrne, Ed.D, Superintendent of Schools Rye City School District
Pietro Fasolino, Board of Education President Rye Neck School District
Benjamin Boykin II Chairman, Westchester County Board of Legislators
Margaret Cunzio Westchester County Legislator
Noam Bramson Mayor, City of New Rochelle
Michael Spano Mayor, City of Yonkers
Nancy Seligson Supervisor, Town of Mamaroneck
Victoria Gearity Mayor, Village of Ossining
Gary Zuckerman Supervisor, Town of Rye
Jennifer Rosen, Board President Briarcliff Manor Board of Education
Dr. Walter Moran, Superintendent of Schools Eastchester Union Free School District
Carol Conklin-Spillane, Superintendent Pocantico Hills School District
Dr. Barbara Ferraro, Superintendent of Schools Rye Neck School District
cc: John B. Rhodes, Chair of the Public Service Commission and Chief Executive Officer, Department of Public Service
Alicia Barton, President and Chief Executive Officer, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority