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Gas Moratorium Prompts Westchester Leaders To Urge Cuomo Take Action

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Photo Credit: Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office

Con Edison’s announced gas moratorium has sent many municipalities into a panic, prompting local lawmakers to encourage New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take action against the utility company.

More than two dozen officials put their name on a letter to the governor, in which they ask Cuomo to expedite the New York Public Service Commission proposal called “Smart Solutions for Natural Gas,” and to introduce incentives for those using clean energy sources.

“Smart Solutions for Natural Gas,” proposes increasing the use of geothermal heating and air source heating pump solutions are currently pending review by the Public Service Commission. The letter “urges 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.”

Westchester officials requested that Con Ed hold off on their announced moratorium as they gather information and seek solutions. In response, Con Ed reportedly said that it’s a simple matter of “supply and demand,” and that at some point the supply will run out, potentially before the March 15 deadline.

“We do not need to tell you that the news has sent a chill throughout the development community,” the letter states. “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.”

When they announced the moratorium, Con Ed said that “the demand for natural gas in our service area has been experiencing significant growth primarily due to the construction of new buildings, the opening of new businesses, and conversions from oil to cleaner-burning natural gas in existing buildings,” they posted on their website. “But all of this new demand for gas is reaching the limits of the current supplies to our service area.”

In the letter, officials encouraged Cuomo to insist Con Ed “spearhead new, creative solutions to the question of natural gas transmission, noting that constructing a new pipeline could take several years.

“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,” they said. “There are often many legitimate objections raised by local communities and environmental advocates. This raises the specter that the proposed moratorium could last for years before the underlying conditions improve.”

In a statement, Con Ed noted that, "to address the supply-demand imbalance and help existing customers reduce the amount of gas they use, we are pursuing non-pipeline solutions that will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through innovative, clean-energy technologies. On Feb. 7, the New York State Public Service Commission approved our portfolio of innovative solutions aimed at lowering the demand for natural gas through energy efficiency and demand response programs, along with programs to help customers with alternative technologies that reduce natural gas usage, such as heat pumps. In addition, the Commission encouraged us to pursue more non-pipeline solutions, noting that the approved measures are the 'early stages of a long-term, comprehensive approach.'"

The moratorium is expected to impact communities south of Bedford, Mount Kisco and New Castle.

“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.”

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