New York — Emboldened by the recent cancellation of a fiercely disputed natural gas pipeline project, climate activists are now looking to defeat National Grid USA's top alternative for addressing a downstate New York supply crunch.
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Dozens of environmental groups have asked Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Public Service Commission to reject any option that would increase gas supply into New York City and Long Island. That includes National Grid's recommendation to build LNG vaporizers and enhance compression on the Iroquois Gas Transmission System.
The groups instead want New York to opt for non-infrastructure solutions, including energy efficiency and demand response measures and electric heating system adoption.
In a report mandated by the company's settlement with the PSC over its 2019 gas moratorium, National Grid proposed a range of solutions to close a projected supply gap. In May, the company recommended two options: building Williams' Northeast Supply Enhancement project, known as NESE, or a combination of new LNG vaporizers in Brooklyn, compression enhancements on the Iroquois system, and incremental energy efficiency and demand response.
Shortly after, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) rejected NESE's application for a critical water quality permit, prompting Williams to shelve the project. In its decision, the DEC said "the continued long-term use of fossil fuels is inconsistent with the state's laws and objectives and with the actions necessary to prevent the most severe impacts from climate change."
FOSSIL FUEL OPPONENTS DISMISS 'FALSE SOLUTIONS'
Climate activists have seized on that aspect of the DEC's decision to argue against any fossil fuel option.
"There is nothing in this statement that wouldn't also apply to the other fracked gas options proposed by National Grid," the Stop the Williams Pipeline Coalition said in a June 3 letter to the PSC. "The addition of new LNG vaporizers at their Greenpoint facility, for example, would similarly facilitate the use of gas for an extended period of time while inhibiting the fulfillment of state climate law, and all at a cost of millions to ratepayers."
The 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires requires New York to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In a June 8 letter to Cuomo signed by 160 environmental groups, the Alliance for a Green Economy called the LNG and pipeline compression options "false 'solutions'" that "would serve the same purpose as the Williams Pipeline: to bring more methane gas into New York, frustrating the much needed transition away from fossil fuels."
National Grid said the option is consistent with New York's climate goals. It acknowledged that greenhouse gas emissions from LNG systems are typically 10% to 15% higher than pipeline infrastructure but noted the company would only tap the facility during times of high demand.
The option would see National Grid build two additional LNG vaporizers at its northern Brooklyn facility, which now has six vaporizers. The company was already aiming to upgrade the facility after more than 50 years of operation. The two vaporizers would cost about $59 million, add 60,000 Dt/day of capacity and could be in service by the end of 2021, the company said.
The overall option, including Iroquois compression enhancements and incremental energy efficiency and demand response, would add enough capacity to allow National Grid to continue hooking up new customers without interruption through the 2027-2028 winter season, the company said.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS WORRY ABOUT TRANSPARENCY
The late 2019 settlement set a deadline for the state to agree to one of the options no later than June, allowing for safe construction within about two years. The climate coalition expressed concern that the PSC did not make time to discuss the options at its June 11 public meeting.
"Thousands of New Yorkers have commented on this proceeding and it's troubling that the decision isn't being made in a public space like the monthly [PSC] meeting," Sane Energy Project organizer Lee Ziesche said in a statement.
Asked whether the state still planned to make a decision by the end of June, the New York Department of Public Service (DPS) did not directly address the question.
"National Grid has developed solutions to ensure that customers in the region will have safe and reliable access to the energy they need while we rapidly transition toward a clean-energy economy to meet the mandated goals of our nation-leading climate plan. These options are being reviewed by an independent monitor and DPS staff," DPS spokesman James Denn said in an email.
A state-appointed independent monitor has scrutinized the options presented by National Grid and addressed stakeholder comments on the solutions in a series of public reports.
National Grid said June 11 it continues to work with New York on finding a "final long-term solution."