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Governor Cuomo's War on Electricity and Central Heating Just Hit a Roadblock

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Winter is coming, to borrow a phrase. 

Every New Yorker knows that during our long cold season, we rely on utility companies to supply us with power and heat. Life would get darn uncomfortable otherwise.

What many may not know is that Governor Andrew Cuomo and his climate-obsessed administration has been working hard to deprive utilities of the fuel they need to keep our lights on and our central heating systems operational. There were even power cuts in New York City this summer because of Cuomo's irrational aversion to fossil fuels, and one downstate utility company stopped accepting new natural gas customers because of a politically-induced shortage of that precious fuel. Similar unwise policies in Massachusetts led that state to import Russian natural gas by sea — despite the fact that the United States boasts some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world, and U.S. production is higher than ever. 

So how do politicians like Governor Cuomo go about depriving Americans of power and heat? The latest trick they've employed is the weaponization of the federal Clean Water Act.

In an effort to reduce fossil fuel usage, Governor Cuomo claims that natural gas pipelines are a danger to the environment, specifically public water supplies, despite the industry’s superb safety record. Never mind that trucking natural gas is less efficient, less safe, and more expensive. The purpose of the Governor’s moratorium on new natural gas pipelines is to choke off the ability of utility companies to obtain the affordable energy supplies they need to keep the electricity flowing to homes and businesses, and to keep New Yorkers cool in summertime and warm in the winter. Presumably, Cuomo and his cronies assume that, once we find ourselves reading by candlelight and jogging in place to stay warm, we'll install solar panels and windmills by the millions, for lack of better options. Think of it as a “Green New Deal” by other means...

Of course, none of this is what the Clean Water Act was designed for. New York's interpretation of the law was always bogus.

Furthermore, politicians pursuing an ideological agenda hostile to fossil fuels could have appealed to voters directly to ban them, but instead decided to subvert the Clean Water Act and abuse their oversight responsibilities to force consumers to purchase more expensive “green” energy (when New Yorkers already pay through the nose). 

As it happens, Cuomo and his administration were misguided from the start in their castigation of natural gas in the name of “saving the planet.” The fact is that rising natural gas use in the last several decades is the main factor that has allowed the U.S. to reduce its carbon footprint. The Energy Information Administration found that the transition from coal to natural gas for power generation has reduced carbon emissions by 28 percent from 2005 to 2017. No, what drives the political crusade against natural gas pipelines is not a reasonable, balanced strategy to protect the environment — it is instead a shortsighted prejudice against an energy source that is part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem.

The good news is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently intervened to impede Cuomo’s moratorium. FERC ruled that New York waived its authority to block natural gas pipeline projects on the pretext that they violate the Clean Water Act because it has not resolved such disputes in a timely manner. This ruling, in combination with recent Executive Orders and EPA rule changes designed to facilitate the expansion of energy infrastructure, may effectively curtail New York politicians' vendetta against natural gas — and against the millions of New Yorkers who rely on it for power and heat.

Bravo, FERC! Bravo, EPA! We all support a diverse energy mix that includes renewables, but we also need power and heat — and therefore fossil fuels — to live and work in a civilized society.

Americans should make it clear to their elected officials, including Governor Cuomo, that we won't stand for unfounded political interference in the provision of basic necessities to homes and businesses. It's obvious, moreover, that we need more natural gas pipelines if our nation is to thrive.

Winter is coming. With a little common sense, we can be ready for it.

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