“Ironic” doesn’t even begin to describe the situation in New York when it comes to the subjects of fracking and natural gas. First, the state banned its own residents from producing the shale beneath their feet in 2014, while in the same breath calling for more natural gas usage. Now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has blocked necessary pipelines to bring that gas into New York City despite having ample evidence of the health and economic benefits similar pipelines have created.
Scott Waldman discussed New York’s reality — one in which the Cuomo administration acknowledges new pipelines are absolutely necessary — in a 2015 Capital New York article,
“The future of energy in New York involves miles and miles of pipelines carrying natural gas from other states, a notion that has been reinforced both by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the governors of New England states that are also pushing for more pipeline infrastructure. New York and New England are increasingly powered by natural gas, thanks to the nation’s fracking boom.” (emphasis added)
Still, the Cuomo administration continues declining to approve any new pipelines. Here is a look at why the New York Post nailed it this week by referring to this contradictory policy as “hysteria.”
Major Health Benefits
New York City has seen tremendous health benefits over the last few years thanks to a major shift to use of natural gas for heating and electric — and that gas has been brought into the city via pipelines. The National Journal highlighted some of these benefits in a 2014 article, reporting that the number of large NYC buildings using natural gas increased from 300 to 1,300 from 2011 to 2013, according to the city’s utility company, Con Edison. The city also worked to phase out more than 2,700 buildings that relied on traditional heating oil in this same time period. As a result, the National Journal reported,
- “New York City’s air quality reached its cleanest level in 50 years in September 2013.”
- “Since 2008, levels of sulfur dioxide dropped 69 percent.”
- “Since 2007, soot pollution dropped 23 percent.”
- “According to the city’s 2013 estimate, improved air quality is preventing 800 deaths and 2,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations from lung and cardiovascular diseases annually, compared to 2008.”
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg echoed these findings to the New York Times in 2013, saying,
“The continued health benefits of this conversion to cleaner heating fuels will make it the single biggest step to save lives since we began our comprehensive smoking control program. City government’s number one responsibility, I’ve always thought, is protecting the health and safety of our people. And when you look at the results like that, at the lives being saved and the illnesses being prevented, it tells you that we’re definitely doing something right.” (emphasis added)
Further, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) released a report in 2015 that emphasized how increased use of natural gas in power generation was helping emissions rates plummet. This is evident in the following chart from report:
And there is a clear correlation between emissions reductions and improved public health. New York’s neighbors to the south — the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) explained in 2012 that these emissions reductions have represented “between $14 and $37 billion of annual public health benefits” in Pennsylvania.
Tremendous Economic Benefits
Last year Bloomberg reported, “the shale boom has reached the Big Apple” because electricity prices plummeted as a result of the increased use of natural gas. From the article:
“Wholesale on-peak electricity prices for Manhattan and its four neighboring boroughs averaged $40.99 a megawatt-hour since the start of July through Sept. 11. They’re headed for a record third-quarter low, based on Independent System Operator Inc. data going back to 2006.
New York power is becoming so cheap that it’s threatening to fall below prices in the area surrounding Washington. Electricity at the two hubs is only about $1 apart now, down from almost $23 a megawatt-hour in 2013.” (emphasis added)
Further, NYISO reported,
“Winter 2014 price spikes, driven by increased cost of natural gas delivered to New York, increased the average wholesale electric energy price to $69.30 per megawatt-hour in 2014, up from $59.13 per megawatt-hour in 2013. Winter 2015 saw less volatility as a result of improved fuel supplies and enhancements to gas-electric coordination.”
This week, the New York Post editorial board highlighted the incredible economic benefits NYC has seen from just one pipeline, Spectra’s Trans-Hudson, which delivers Marcellus gas from Pennsylvania to lower Manhattan. From the Post,
“All in all, it has saved New Yorkers $500 million from November 2013 to October 2016, according to ConEdison:
$224.4 million for gas customers.
$57.6 million for steam customers.
$210.6 million for electric customers.”
Those same Manhattanites that now reap the benefits of this clean, affordable resource fought tooth and nail against the construction of infrastructure needed to deliver it to them. In fact, they literally stripped down to their birthday suits, painted themselves green and marched through the streets of NYC in protest of a pipeline that they needed to meet their heat and electricity demands.
It is this same Keep It In the Ground mentality that has halted another pipeline from bringing further benefits to the city. The Constitution Pipeline has received all Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permits, Pennsylvania permits, and yet cannot be built because New York refuses to approve the remaining Water Quality Certification necessary to begin to build the infrastructure. From the National Review article,
“This proposed pipeline promises to provide much-needed natural gas to the region, which will help lower fuel and energy costs — addressing one of the key challenges Upstate New York faces in remaining competitive with other manufacturing regions,” Randy Wolken, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, wrote New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Oct. 15, 2014.”
That’s because the Constitution is considered an “open access” transmission pipeline — meaning distribution systems can tap into it along the route, gaining access to affordable Marcellus gas being transported to New York City. In addition to not having this supply for heating and electric this winter, and the consumer benefits that come along with it, the denial of this project also delays:
“… about 2,400 direct and indirect jobs that would be created during pipeline construction, generating $130 million in labor income for the region. The decision could also cost local governments approximately $13 million in annual property tax revenue.”
Meanwhile, New York’s Natural Gas Usage Continues to Increase
To add to this irony, demand for natural gas in New York state and NYC continues to increase at the same time politicians and environmentalists block construction of needed infrastructure. As Stephen Whitley, president of the New York Independent System Operator, the state’s grid operator, recently told Capital New York,
“The ‘lights will go out’ if significant resources are not invested in natural gas pipelines and transmission lines.” (emphasis added)
That’s because, as NYISO reported,
- “Power projects using natural gas (gas-only and dual-fuel units capable of using either natural gas and/or oil) account for 56 percent of New York’s generating capacity.
- More than 70 percent of all proposed generating capacity in New York are natural gas or dual fuel power projects.” (emphasis added)
Pipelines are the safest way to move gas, and New York needs more gas as a result of policies implemented by the same administration that has stopped production within its borders and is refusing new infrastructure to be built. Groups with a Keep It In the Ground (KIITG) mentality such as the Sierra Club aren’t worried about the potential for outages or increased costs because they believe,
“If we can forestall gas infrastructure being put in the ground and locking in that demand for the next 60 years — if we can forestall that by maybe just five years — the hope is that renewables will come in and be cost competitive in all markets.”
“I think when you look at it, it’s so critically important that we live in the real world and not in the world of ideology.”
For the majority of New Yorkers that live in the real world that means an increasing need for infrastructure like pipelines.