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ConEd Expanding Existing Pipeline Capacity Amid Ban on New Construction

We have previously reported on Consolidated Edison’s recent restrictions on new natural gas hookups in the greater New York metropolitan area as a consequence of insufficient supplies, as well as the highly unhelpful efforts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to block proposed new pipelines that would bring more supplies into the state. The governor’s objections are largely based on his climate change advocacy, though safety has also been a stated concern.

Consolidated Edison reports that there have since been 1,600 applications for uninterrupted service in moratorium areas.  In the absence of new pipelines, the utility has resorted to working with operators of existing pipelines to increase capacity, most recently in a deal with the Iroquois Gas Transmission System. This will be done by upgrading the compressor facilities in these pipeline systems.   

Boosting natural gas supplies in this manner is certainly a more realistic solution than increased reliance on renewables, energy efficiency programs, and other measures that constitute New York state’s response to the shortages. However, doing so has several drawbacks compared to allowing new pipeline capacity, most notably that the additional gas will only be enough to partially address the problem.  

Nor is it an immediate solution, as these projects are expected to come online in 2023—not any sooner than new pipeline capacity, particularly some pipelines that already come near the state line and would only need to be extended a little further to serve New York, and those that would take natural gas the relatively short distance from neighboring Pennsylvania’s abundant gas fields to the Big Apple.  

In addition, older pipelines tend to be less safe than newly constructed ones. Thus, New York’s safety-based objections to new pipelines and preference for transporting more gas through older pipelines may prove counterproductive.