Westchester business leaders have launched a massive effort to solve a natural gas crisis brewing on their back door.
Con Edison has announced that, effective March 15, it will no longer accept new natural gas customers in rapidly developing lower Westchester County due to a severe shortage of available supply
The Business Council of Westchester called the announcement “a wake-up call for all who are focused on the economic present and future of Westchester” and said it will organize a campaign to bring together the best minds from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to present viable, practical solutions.
“While the shortage announcement came as a surprise, it shouldn’t have,” said BCW president and CEO Marsha Gordon.
“The supply crisis has been in the making for years as virtually any attempt to add major new natural gas capacity to the region has been either rejected or drowned out by calls for finding new alternative energy sources instead,”
While she said her organization supported the shift away from carbon fuels to renewable forms of energy, Gordon added, “Realistically, this is not going to happen overnight. In the meantime, natural gas is the best and least objectionable energy source and a plentiful supply is available.”
The problem is that there is insufficient transmission pipeline capacity to get it the gas to Westchester.
Gordon said that while there is plenty of blame to go around, the focus must turn to evaluating what steps can be taken in the shortest term possible to assure adequate natural gas is made available. “Anything short of this will quite literally cripple the development and redevelopment efforts that have finally taken hold most notably in the downtowns of our major urban centers, and that is not a viable option,” Gordon said
The BCW will form a taskforce comprised of representatives of the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
The taskforce’s charge will be to explore and make specific recommendations on how best to address the gas supply shortage so that economic growth is not brought to a virtual standstill.
“We are committed to turning our full resources to addressing this crisis in the coming days by bringing together the leaders of state, county and municipal government, Con Edison, the PSC, the gas pipeline transmission companies and the development community for an emergency meeting,” Gordon said.
Public Service Commission Chair John B. Rhodes said the Commission is taking quick steps to address probelm, including producing a report on changing market conditions that gave rise to Con Edison’s decision and to develop recommendations to make certain that utilities across the state are able to meet customer needs.
DPS will arrange for and host public hearings in Westchester beginning the week of February 11.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will also prioritize its programs, including programs to help consumers install technology that will reduce heating and cooling costs with clean energy solutions.