WASHINGTON — A utility regulator in Pennsylvania says the Cuomo administration’s lack of urgency toward building pipelines could create a “complete disaster” in power generation.
At a natural gas conference in Washington on Tuesday, commissioner Robert Powelson of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission criticized New York’s cautious approach on pipeline capacity, joking to conference attendees that Gov. Andrew Cuomo took two hours to watch an episode of “60 Minutes.”
In a phone interview with POLITICO New York, Powelson said New York’s resistance to pipelines was hurting business and electrical grid reliability.
“The political obstruction is wreaking havoc in the ability to achieve energy policy goals to bring natural gas into the market,” he said.
The Cuomo administration has blocked or delayed a few pipeline projects. Most notably, the administration on Earth Day rejected water quality permits sought by developers of the Constitution pipeline, which would have increased the amount of natural gas coming into New York from Pennsylvania. In addition, the state has delayed a decision on the New Market pipeline expansion project, which would increase capacity by adding 33,000-horsepower of compressor stations in Central New York. The state has also ordered a full environmental review of the Pilgrim Pipeline, which would bring crude oil from Albany to New Jersey.
Powelson, a Republican, said governors in New England have united around bringing in more natural gas, but he said they are impeded by New York’s anti-pipeline policies.
“It’s 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas,” he said. “This gas has to get to load centers, it has to be driven to markets. If one state says ‘no, no, no,’ then those other states behind that curtain are directly adversely impacted by those decisions, plain and simple.”
Powelson said the administrations of Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Cuomo, both Democrats, are increasingly at odds over their natural gas policy. Pennsylvania is one of the country’s biggest producers of natural gas, while New York has the largest shale deposit of the states that have banned fracking.
This summer, a report by the state’s independent grid operator found that a lack of natural gas infrastructure could harm the reliability of New York’s electrical grid, as well as the cost of power. The New York Independent System Operator concluded that a disruption in natural gas supplies could be harmful. Dominion Transmission, one of the nation’s largest energy transportation companies with 5 million utility and retail energy customers in 14 states, has said that delays in natural gas pipeline decisions are “unique to New York” among all states. National Grid has said continued low gas prices will increase demand and the need for more supply through pipelines.
The Cuomo administration’s vetoes or delays of pipeline projects have been hailed by environmental groups nationwide, and have been used to burnish the governor’s climate credentials. But state regulators have quietly acknowledged the need for more natural gas capacity in New York and have said it is important for the state’s economy to have more capacity.
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