New York Governor Cuomo claims that he supports pipeline infrastructure, commenting that pipelines are viewed as the least hazardous method of moving a combustible fuel. Cuomo further stated, “Many studies say that using a pipeline as a conduit is safer than rail travel and truck travel. Realistically you have to move fuel, so a pipeline is the safest way if it’s done right.” Yet, within the last year, his Department of Environmental Conservation denied certification to the proposed Northern Access pipeline and water permits sought by the Constitution Pipeline.[i] Cuomo has also fought the Algonquin Pipeline expansion and has been dawdling on an 8-mile spur to a new power plant in Wawayanda.[ii]
While New York State has access to a portion of the Marcellus natural gas field, Governor Cuomo has banned the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract the natural gas from that field. Nearby Pennsylvania, however, has used that technology along with horizontal drilling to develop its Marcellus field, benefiting from the natural gas produced from it. The pipelines would bring natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York, but Governor Cuomo is denying the residents of New York State access to that natural gas by limiting the expansion of pipeline capacity.
Northern Access Pipeline
The Northern Access Pipeline is a 97-mile project that would bring natural gas from the Marcellus field in Pennsylvania to consumers in Western New York. The 24-inch diameter pipeline would bring at least 1,000 construction jobs.
But, according to Governor Cuomo, the risk to the environment and water quality outweigh these jobs, despite his claim to be an advocate of natural gas as a bridge fuel to help get to his state’s 50 percent renewable energy pledge by 2030.
Others feel Cuomo is catering to anti-pipeline activists, with no regard for the economic consequences and the role of natural gas in reducing overall energy costs. They feel Governor Cuomo should decide on a standard rather than trying to look good politically. Governor Cuomo is a Democrat who faces re-election for a third term next year.
The Constitution Pipeline is a 124-mile pipeline designed to transport 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day (enough natural gas to serve approximately 3 million homes). The 30-inch diameter pipeline would extend from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, to the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, in eastern New York. This project would provide over 1,300 construction jobs and support almost 1,000 indirect jobs. It is expected to create $130 million dollars of new local payroll in areas of New York State that need it the most and to generate $17 million in new sales and income tax revenue.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the project on December 2, 2014 after issuing its Final Environmental Impact Statement on October 24, 2014, concluding that environmental impacts would be “less than significant levels” with the implementation of proposed mitigation measures by the pipeline sponsors and FERC. However, on April 22, 2016, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation denied Constitution Pipeline’s Water Quality Certification.
The pipeline company is appealing New York’s decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The company expects the pipeline to begin operation as early as the second quarter of 2018, assuming that legal challenges are “promptly and satisfactorily concluded.” It remains firmly committed to obtaining the necessary permits and moving forward with the project.[iii]
New York State Needs the Natural Gas
Currently, natural gas supplies 57 percent of the electric generation capacity in New York State, and as more of the state’s coal and nuclear power plants are scheduled to be shut down, new gas-fired plants are being built to replace them. New natural gas pipelines are needed to connect natural gas supplies to New York consumers. As New York continues its long-term transition to more and more renewable electric generation, natural gas supply is essential to power the state’s generators and support the reliability of the power grid. [iv]
Governor Cuomo is playing games with pipeline construction in the hopes of winning a third term as governor of New York State by kowtowing to environmentalists, who want to squelch pipelines in order to keep fossil fuels in the ground. But, Cuomo’s actions are hurting the residents of New York State, who need the natural gas to heat their homes and to fuel their electric generators in order to keep the lights on and their houses warm.
[i] Press Republican, Cuomo outlines concerns on pipeline expansion, April 16, 2017, http://www.pressrepublican.com/news/local_news/cuomo-outlines-concerns-on-pipeline-expansion/article_be008895-4ade-5ead-af72-0e89d0120677.html
[ii] NY Post, Why does Cuomo keep rejecting pipelines New Yorkers could benefit from? April 16, 2017, http://nypost.com/2017/04/16/why-does-cuomo-keep-rejecting-pipelines-new-yorkers-could-benefit-from/
[iv] WIVB, Northern Access Pipeline comes to a halt; National Fuel responds, April 8, 2017, http://wivb.com/2017/04/08/northern-access-pipeline-comes-to-a-halt/