L.I. business owner laments National Grid permit halt

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National Grid is halting natural gas permits until the NESE pipeline is approved. (Photo by Tom McCarthy)

The president of Lynbrook’s Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to the governor asking the state to approve a rejected natural gas pipeline project. According to National Grid, the action on the project is stopping it from processing applications for gas service on Long Island and in New York City.

The East Williston Board of Trustees announced at a June meeting that gas service requests would no longer be processed in the village until the Northeast Supply Enhancement project was approved. The halt is affecting all of Long Island.

The project to provide additional capacity to customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island is a pipeline proposed by Transco that would deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, then underwater through Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay to about three miles offshore the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, where it would connect with existing infrastructure.

On May 15, the state Department of Environmental Conservation rejected the project due to developer Transco’s “inability to demonstrate the project’s compliance with all applicable water quality standards.” The transportation system involves 23.5 miles of underwater pipeline, of which some 17.4 miles would be in New York state waters.

In his letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the chamber president, Stephen Wangel, described the troubles of a business owner in Lynbrook stalled by “governmental partisan politics” who cannot obtain a gas permit to fuel cooking equipment after making a significant investment in his business. “The moratorium that National Grid has placed on new gas service has indeterminately delayed the opening,” he said.

The business owner he referred to is Dominic Natoli, owner of Il Pozzo Wine Bar.

Natoli is getting married soon and is opening his wine bar in about three weeks. Fortunately, he explained, his kitchen is up and running, but he is concerned about heating the restaurant during the winter. When he asked for an upgraded meter, he was told by a National Grid employee that he could not get one.

He said the utility worker told him “there’s nothing I can do to change this.”

Since the kitchen is working for the summer, he has not been calling National Grid as much but will start again in August.

Natoli said that the state needs to be more practical. He said that the state should not be swayed by the media and environmentalist groups, but should “do what’s best for the people as a whole.”

On the halting of the project, Natoli said, “They’re holding back billions and billions of revenue.”

Wangel said that with the halt no new businesses can open, which also means that people looking for jobs can’t be hired. “Its economic impact on the downstate is devastating,” he said.

At the June meeting of the East Williston board, Mayor Bonnie L.S. Parente said, “National Grid said there’s not enough supply to meet the demand.”

At the time of the DEC denial, project spokesman Chris Stockton said in a statement, “The Department of Environmental Conservation raised a discrete technical issue with our application for water quality certification.”

He continued, “Our team will be evaluating the issue and resubmitting the application quickly. We are confident that we can be responsive to this technical concern, meet our customer’s in-service date and avoid a moratorium that would have a devastating impact on the regional economy and environment.”

Transco submitted a new application for a water quality certification on May 17.

The project developers said they are still confident that the project will be done by late 2020 or early 2021.

“As the state’s utility regulator, the Department of Public Service is conducting an in-depth, detailed, ongoing review of New York’s gas infrastructure needs, and it is taking National Grid’s plans into account,” spokesman James Denn said in an email.

He added, “Under any scenario, to advance the state’s economic and climate goals, we will continue to dramatically improve energy efficiency, scale demand response programs and expedite an orderly transition to clean energy” in reference to Cuomo’s goals to move to renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels.

Robert Wood, an organizer for the environmentalist group 350Brooklyn, contends that there is no need for a pipeline. Wood said there is not a gas shortage, but rather this is a move on National Grid’s part to secure its future market share. “If you build this pipeline, it slows the shift to renewables,” Wood said.

Wood is critical of National Grid’s permit halt, saying, “They’re using businesses and holding them hostage to pressure Cuomo.”

Asked if a go-ahead for the project would end the moratorium on processing gas service applications, Wendy Ladd, a spokeswoman for National Grid, said in an email, “We need approval from New York and New Jersey for the project to move forward to have the supply to provide to customers.”

Ladd added that the project would need final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Once all of these permits and approvals are granted in time for an in-service date of winter 2020, we will begin to process all applications for new or expanded gas load service in the order in which they were received,” she said.

Wangel concluded his letter to Cuomo by saying, “The families of the owners and employees under our Chamber of Commerce umbrella equates to tens of thousands of registered voters. It is in their best interest to greenlight this project with all due haste.”

The public comment period for the state DEC concerning the pipeline is open until July 13. Public comments can be submitted to project manager Karen Gaidasz at 518-402-9167 and NESEproject@dec.ny.gov.

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