Cuomo 'As Serious As A Heart Attack' About Revoking National Grid's License

WCBS 880 Newsroom
November 12, 2019 - 3:55 pm
National Grid Trucks

Governor's Office


NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he is “as serious as a heart attack” about giving National Grid 14 days to turn on gas for customers in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island or lose its utility license.

In a letter sent to National Grid CEO John Pettigrew and President John Bruckner, Cuomo says he intends to revoke the utility's certificate to operate its downstate gas franchise.

National Grid previously said it cannot meet the demand for gas unless the Williams Pipeline, a proposed pipeline extension from New Jersey to the Rockaways, is approved. The pipeline proposal has been rejected twice by the state.

“National Grid wants approval to build a pipeline, which would secure their franchise for about 15 years. New York State would have to approve it – but by the way, New Jersey would have to approve it and Pennsylvania would have to approve it because it comes from Pennsylvania into New York,” Cuomo told WCBS 880’s Michael Wallace.

He adds that even if the utility could get all states on board, they’d then have to hope for no litigation or construction issues to finish the pipeline, “so it’s a very speculative option at best.”

He says by not accepting new customers and shutting off gas to thousands of existing customers, National Grid is “extorting” New Yorkers and he says, “we’re not going to tolerate it.”

Writing to the company, Cuomo criticizes the utility for its reliance on this project, which he calls "risky at best."

"The essential responsibility for a utility to provide adequate and reliable service is to manage the supply and demand." Cuomo writes. "The very lack of supply you now point to as the reason for your denial of service to thousands of customers exhibits your failure to plan for supply needs."

Last month, National Grid said it was taking immediate action to comply with a state order to reconnect gas to residential customers by the middle of November.

In his letter, the governor also accuses National Grid of failing to work in the public interest, as mandated in the utility's license.

"Either National Grid was grossly negligent in relying exclusively on the speculative construction of a private pipeline to meet the demands that it was statutorily required to provide; or, National Grid deliberately defrauded the people of the state by not developing or pursuing existing supply options," Cuomo writes.

In an emailed statement to WCBS 880, a utility spokesperson said, "National Grid is in receipt of the letter from Governor Cuomo and will review and respond accordingly within the timeframe outlined in the letter. We continue to work with all parties on these critical natural gas supply issues on behalf of all our customers in downstate New York."

New York City's Comptroller, Scott Stringer, says he is supporting Cuomo's move. "The Governor’s letter rightfully highlights the coercive and abusive tactics that National Grid undertook to try to drum up support for the environmentally backwards fracked gas Williams Pipeline," he wrote in a statement.

He also says he's in favor of a public takeover of the natural gas system, as well as exploring alternative energy options.

"We need to begin to responsibly develop plans to replace gas infrastructure with renewable and electric alternatives," Stringer wrote. "After years of unchecked fossil fuel expansion, it’s clear we cannot count on the utilities being cooperative partners."