Industry group: City needs more gas pipelines to offset Indian Point closure
Gas pipelines are lightning rods for opposition, but a new report says New York City needs more of them before the planned closure of the Indian Point nuclear plant.
The industry group study, titled “Electricity Outlook,” asserts that the city’s appetite for energy will expand as Indian Point’s scheduled 2021 deactivation approaches. The paper calls for improving energy efficiency and transmission and storage of renewable power from upstate and Canada.
But the report, released Tuesday by the New York Building Congress, also points out that 81.5% of the current now coursing through the city grid comes from natural gas burned in the five boroughs—and they will need more of the fossil fuel to keep New York’s lights on once the atomic reactors are mothballed.
“New natural-gas pipeline capacity with direct connection to New York City and Westchester County also will be necessary to meet expected growth in demand,” the report reads. “Ample supplies of natural gas are critical, as almost all in-city electricity generation comes from natural-gas burning plants.”
The city’s push to transition public and private buildings away from burning heavy oil for heat has accelerated this need. Electricity Outlook highlights the ongoing construction of new gas plants in upstate Orange and Dutchess counties, the 2013 completion of the Spectra pipeline into New York and New Jersey, and the 2015 opening of Transco’s Rockaway Delivery Lateral as positive but insufficient developments.
Controversy swirled around Spectra as activists raised fears of potential radon contamination and the possibility of a devastating explosion in Jersey City, Bayonne or Staten Island. The Rockaway pipeline provoked protest because it cut through federal parkland and carried gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing, which involves the injection of pressurized water and chemicals into bedrock and is feared to be environmentally harmful.
The Building Congress report makes only a brief allusion to the issue, noting wryly that the city relies heavily on gas harvested through fracking but that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned the practice in New York state. Cuomo led the effort to shutter Indian Point on the grounds that a nuclear plant should not be in such a populated area.
Electricity Outlook urges the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to promptly approve Transco’s Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, which will expand pipelines linking New York and New Jersey to the fracked Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, as well Millenium Pipeline’s request to expand facilities in several counties upstate.
It also insists that city consumers would benefit from the increased supply and depressed prices that would accompany both the prospective Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia and the PennEast Pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey—proposals that have sparked the ire of fracking foes concerned about potential contamination of water supplies and parkland.
“The state and city should work together to convene a working group of key stakeholders, including utilities and natural-gas suppliers, to develop a strategy for the planning and approval of new natural-gas pipelines directly into New York City,” the report recommends.
The report lists its underwriters as Consolidated Edison, Indian Point owner Entergy, the Cuomo-controlled New York Power Authority and real estate company Rudin Management. It names gas provider National Grid and the General Contractors Association of New York, which represents unionized building firms, as supporters.
Environmental groups have argued that Indian Point’s power can be replaced by renewable energy, projects to make the electric grid more efficient, and conservation measures.