New York is a state where business and organized labor regularly work together to forge practical solutions to challenges that threaten our state’s economic vitality. That is the spirit in which we are jointly endorsing expansion of a natural gas pipeline known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, or NESE.
We cannot afford for NESE to go the way of Amazon, which was driven out of New York by many of the same groups that are opposing the pipeline. We also cannot afford to lose access to relatively clean natural gas during the uncertain period of our state’s transition from dependence on oil, gas and nuclear power to a future where we will hopefully be able to meet most of our energy needs from renewable sources like wind, sun and hydropower.
Earlier this month, the application to build the pipeline was turned down by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on a technicality. We urge the developers of the pipeline expansion to pursue an amended application and hope that both New York and New Jersey regulators will move quickly to authorize a prompt construction start.
The entire state is at risk if NESE is not built. We all depend on the payrolls and tax revenues generated by the metropolitan region. Already there is a looming moratorium on new, gas-powered buildings here. As much as $300 billion in new development is at risk if the pipeline is not constructed. Even worse from an environmental point of view, a gas moratorium will force many new buildings to revert to oil-powered systems — an option that no one should welcome.
As more companies and consumers have moved away from oil as their primary energy source in order to reduce carbon emissions, the demand for natural gas has dramatically increased. The scheduled closing of the Indian Point nuclear plant, which has been a major source of clean energy, has made dependence on natural gas even greater.
Downstate’s fastest-growing industry is technology, which requires a huge amount of power to support its equipment, operations and data centers. Other big industries like finance and health care are also increasingly dependent on technology, so their needs for power are larger than ever.
Until the last year or so, it seemed that good sense would prevail over the objections of advocacy groups and political interests that insist on cutting off construction of any new infrastructure that sustains the natural gas supply in order to try forcing a faster conversion to renewables. The anti-fracking movement generated a lot of misinformation about the natural gas supply that has contributed to opposition to essential infrastructure like the NESE.
We should all share a commitment to moving as quickly as possible to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change, but we also need to be realistic about how long this may take.
Above all, let’s be practical. As it stands, renewables cannot meet New York’s enormous energy demands. It will take many years before that changes. National Grid has said that nearly 8,000 planned oil-to-gas residential conversions annually will be put on hold if NESE is not approved. In addition, planned conversion of major commercial buildings, including public housing, will be halted and will continue to depend on dirty oil for heat — a net loss for New York’s environmental, public health and clean air goals.
On behalf of the Partnership for New York City, which represents more than 350 major employers and 1.5 million workers in New York, as well as the NYS Building & Construction Trades Council, which represents 200,000 construction industry workers and a network of more than 2.5 million workers in the state’s AFL-CIO, we support the governor’s commitment to a carbon-free New York. However, we are also pragmatists. It is a fact that there is simply not enough renewable energy available right now to meet the growing demands of the Downstate region. We need the NESE pipeline.