By Gerson Freitas Jr.
Utility owner National Grid Plc is rushing to comply with Cuomo’s order and expects to line up enough gas to hook up 1,100 customers within the next two weeks, said John Bruckner, president of the company’s New York unit. The utility has already contacted more than half of the customers that qualify for a hookup under the order and will have reached out to all of them by the end of the week, he said.
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Cuomo and London-based National Grid have been locked in a battle over natural gas since New York shot down a $1 billion pipeline project that would’ve expanded the company’s access to more supplies. In response, the company imposed a moratorium on all new hookups and encouraged customers to write to Cuomo’s office in support of the project. Cuomo fired back last week, saying the company had “acted in bad faith.” He ordered it to immediately resume connections to some customers.
“We’ve allocated resources that enable us to address all these costumers and connect them all in a very short period of time,” Bruckner said in a phone interview Tuesday. The company is trying to reduce gas demand from existing users through energy efficiency programs in order to accommodate the hookups, he said.
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The clash in New York is the latest flash point in a war on natural gas that has escalated across the U.S., with cities including Berkeley and San Jose, California, banning the fuel in new homes and businesses altogether. Gas pipeline projects across the eastern U.S. are similarly facing intensifying opposition from local governments and environmentalists.
New York alone has quashed plans for two major gas pipelines on environmental grounds. Both National Grid and Consolidated Edison Inc. stopped accepting new applications for service in parts of their New York territories because of a shortage of space on existing lines. Come winter, some National Grid customers in the Hamptons and other parts of Long Island may get their gas from truck deliveries because of pipeline constraints.
The moratorium that National Grid imposed has already compelled some customers to turn to electricity instead. Bruckner said a few of the homes and businesses the company contacted about service since Cuomo’s order had already replaced their gas-powered heating equipment with electric ones.