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Development Expected To Take Hit After Con Ed Gas Moratorium

An aerial view of a 28-story development in New Rochelle.
An aerial view of a 28-story development in New Rochelle. Photo Credit: New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson

Con Edison’s announcement of a gas moratorium beginning in March has thrown a massive monkey wrench in the ambitious plans of developers throughout Westchester.

Con Ed issued an announcement over the weekend stating that the demand for new gas has surpassed its limits in the Southern Westchester area, prompting them to stop accepting new customers in Westchester beginning in March.

“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.”

The moratorium came to the shock of many, especially cities and communities that may lose out on proposed multi-million dollar developments, some of which are already in the works.

"This will slow down, if not completely stop, the 20 years of economic development we have seen on the Yonkers waterfront,” Yonkers City Council Minority Leader Mike Breen said. “This is going to also negatively affect young homeowners you want to come and build a future in Yonkers. If you don’t already have gas service, Con Edison is telling these young folks to go punt and build in Putnam, Rockland or elsewhere.”

Developers are now planning to form a task force along with the Business Council of Westchester to look into alternatives to assist Con Ed in coming up with a plan. According to reports, Con Ed said the problem is a lack of infrastructure for gas pipelines and they are hopeful of directing customers to other sources of energy.

The moratorium is expected to impact hundreds of millions of dollars of developments, including several prominent proposals in New Rochelle, Yonkers and Mount Vernon.

Marsha Gordon, the President and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, said that the moratorium “is a wake-up call for all who are focused on the economic present and future of Westchester and the entire metropolitan area.”

“While the shortage announcement came as a surprise, it shouldn't have,” she said. “The supply crisis has been in the making for years as virtually any attempt to add major new natural gas capacity to the region has been either rejected or drowned out by calls for finding new alternative energy sources instead.

Officials in developing cities are now calling on the New York State public service commission to step in and do something.

“Con Edison did not find out on Friday that they could not supply future gas service to the people of Westchester County,” Yonkers Councilman Anthony Merante said. “It was irresponsible on the part of Con Edison to not have announced this 12 months ago. This game of chicken between Con Edison and the Public Service Commission is unacceptable.”

“All of us share in the desire to shift away from carbon fuels to renewable forms of energy,“ Gordon added. “However, realistically, this is not going to happen overnight. In the meantime, natural gas is the best and least objectionable energy source and a plentiful supply is available.

“The problem is that there is insufficient transmission pipeline capacity to get it to us. This is a self-made problem that can and must be addressed immediately. Con Edison has the ability to deliver gas but it is unable to access additional supplies.”

Gordon said that the BCW will be forming a task force made up of representatives of the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. The task force will be charged with exploring and making specific recommendations about how to address the gas supply shortage “so that economic growth is not brought to a virtual standstill.”

“While there is plenty of blame to go around for letting the situation reach a crisis, at this point we strongly believe that the focus must immediately turn to evaluating what steps can be taken in the shortest term possible to assure adequate natural gas is made available.

"Anything short of this will quite literally cripple the development and redevelopment efforts that have finally taken hold most notably in the downtowns of our major urban centers, and that is not a viable option.”

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