Cuomo floats idea of bypassing National Grid

August 28, 2019 Paula Katinas
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BOROUGHWIDE — In the wake of a moratorium by the company on installing new gas hookups in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, New York State might consider ending a long-standing agreement it has with National Grid which gives the company a monopoly on supplying gas to homes and businesses.

In a letter to the Department of Public Service, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote that the state would instead bring in other companies. In his letter, Cuomo directed DPS to broaden an investigation it is currently conducting into the moratorium.

In addition, the governor directed DPS to consider alternatives to National Grid as a franchisee for some or all of the areas it currently serves if the problem is not resolved.

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National Grid announced earlier this year that it would no longer provide gas hookups to new or returning customers, citing a shortage in the supply chain and an increase in demand for service. It cannot increase gas capacity unless New York State approves a permit to construct a new gas pipeline between New Jersey and New York, company officials have stated.

Homeowners and businesses in Brooklyn have been complaining to their local elected officials after being rebuffed by National Grid if they have complied with the company requirement that they turn off gas service during renovation projects, and request, following the completion of the project, that gas service be reinstated.

According to Assemblymember Bill Colton, a Democrat who represents Gravesend, part of Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights, the moratorium is hurting working families and mom and pop businesses. Colton held a press conference outside his Gravesend office with affected National Grid customers on Friday.

“We are dealing with an emergency in our community,” Colton said. “When people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a home or build a business, they have every expectation that they are going to get gas.”

Cuomo expressed concern over reports of lack of service to customers.

“If these reports are accurate, National Grid’s refusal to resume service could endanger the health and safety of New Yorkers,” Cuomo wrote in his letter to DPS. “Affected homeowners likely include families without the means to secure alternative residences, and National Grid’s refusal of service could deprive these families of heat as temperatures fall.”

Cuomo ordered DPS to broaden its probe to include the investigation of incidents in which National Grid has refused to restore gas service. The governor wrote that DPS must “take any steps” within its authority and should use “appropriate penalties and sanctions” to ensure that National Grid immediately provides service to customers affected by these refusals. 

Colton said he was pleased to see Cuomo take action.

“The governor has shown that he has heard the cries and the anguish from people. He has heard what was said and he is responding in a responsible way,” Colton told the Home Reporter on Wednesday.

Colton was skeptical of National Grid’s assertion that it needs the new pipeline in order to keep up with increasing demands for service. “There is more than enough gas to service current customers and future customers,” he said.

Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst, accused National Grid of “holding Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island customers hostage,” and urged Cuomo to end the company’s monopoly.

“We should also not be at the mercy of a monopolistic company like National Grid and the governor should end the agreement with them and find an alternative gas provider,” Treyger said in a text message to the Home Reporter.

But without a new pipeline to increase its capacity, National Grid is caught in a bind, according to a company spokesperson.

“We will stand by and honor all customer commitments that were approved before we determined that we can no longer safely serve additional gas load without additional supply.  We’ve been working closely with the Department of Public Service staff and its consultants to support the commission’s investigations of gas supply constraints in downstate New York and will continue to cooperate with any further inquiries while we await the results of that study,” the spokesperson said in a statement emailed to the Home Reporter.

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