March 4, 2019 Read More →

Opponents to New York natural gas pipeline push energy efficiency, renewable options

Crain’s New York Business:

New York is a city of canyons. But for Ashley Fallon, a child of Breezy Point who now lives in Rockaway Beach, her portion of Queens can seem closer to California than Manhattan. The view from her surfboard might include any of three species of whales, two kinds of dolphins and baby seals. Walking on the beach, she sometimes spots the rare snowy owl.

Fallon knows the beach was not always this clean or the water this full of life. That is one reason she has joined a coalition of local civic and environmental groups fighting the proposed Williams Transco natural gas pipeline. The groups, including Surfriders Foundation, 350.org and the Rockaway Beach Civic Association, insist the pipeline could inflict lasting environmental damage on the area.

The 24-mile expansion of existing pipeline infrastructure would run 17 miles underwater, from New Jersey’s Raritan Bay across lower New York Bay to a Transco pipeline already in place three miles offshore from the Rockaway Peninsula. The projects supporters are no less passionate than Fallon. They say the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, or NESE, will address a looming natural gas shortage in Brooklyn and Queens and on Long Island that could inflict lasting damage on the region’s economy.

The battle is playing out amid another gas shortage that has raised alarms across the region’s business community: Con Edison has declared a moratorium on natural-gas hookups in southern Westchester. As of March 15, the utility said, it will not be able to guarantee service for new projects, effectively stifling developments. National Grid, Williams’ partner in the NESE project, is warning of a similar moratorium in Brooklyn and Queens and on Long Island should New York not approve the billion-dollar pipeline by May 15. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which is weighing public comments, could block the pipeline if it found the project does not comply with the state’s water quality standards.

But the project’s critics maintain the energy sector is at a tipping point, with new technology making strides in efficiency, and renewables having more potential. They cite gains from new boilers, building retrofits, eco-friendly building codes and more efficient electric heating and cooling systems.

“You have to consider the alternatives now more than ever,” said Tom Sanzillo, a former New York state deputy comptroller who is director of finance for the pro-renewables Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “And the reason you have to do that is because conditions in the industry are changing so fast and there are more and more alternatives and innovations.”

More: Business groups say natural-gas delivery has reached a crisis point. Environmentalists agree

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