Guest Commentary: ST8 needs to look to future, not past

Daily Star-3 months before

Astoundingly, ST8’s report still laments the fact that the Constitution Pipeline did not get built.

“The Constitution pipeline would have provided natural gas to Amphenol, Raymond, …and potentially to many other businesses … that do not currently have access to natural gas service. Business representatives and economic development officials supported the pipeline because lower cost energy would attract new and support existing businesses.”

Whether a few businesses might have saved money at the expense of New York’s water quality is a moot point. The public rejec...ed this pipeline. The state rejected it. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected it. Even Constitution Pipeline Corp. has given up on this dead horse. ST8 must stop flogging it.

“Recently proposed natural gas pipelines would have alleviated supply and distribution constraints in Tompkins County … and allow additional connections for customers in Chenango, Delaware and Otsego County… However, required regulatory approvals were not granted for these projects.”

ST8 omits the fact that NYSEG is pursuing alternatives to the Lansing pipeline project at the request of local government. This project never came before regulators; it was rejected by the people of Tompkins County and NYSEG accepted that verdict.

“Funding for the [DeRuyter] project was requested in NYSEG’s Rate Case, which is currently under review by the NYS Public Service Commission. In addition, approval through the NYS Article VII process would be required before construction can begin.”

Not correct. Funding for expansion does not appear in the NYSEG Rate Case Joint Proposal. Rather, the JP before the Public Service Commission specifically removed funding to expand this 50-mile long pipeline. NYSEG affirms that an Article VII proceeding will not occur during this rate-case term. Acknowledging the CLCPA, NYSEG and its sister company RG&E, have committed to no net gas delivery increases year-over-year for the term of the rate case. NYSEG has further committed to non-pipeline-alternative review for most capital projects involving gas deliveries.

To misrepresent facts that are in the public record and have received substantial press indicates either utter incompetence or an attempt to rewrite history at the bidding of fossil-fuel interests on the ST8 board. Evidence of the latter can be seen in ST8’s parroting of fear spread by the Otsego County IDA about interruptible gas contracts:

“Although energy efficiency and switching to other fuels would reduce natural gas usage, it is not clear whether these measures would eliminate the need for interruptible service along the DeRuyter pipeline or the moratorium in Tompkins County.”

Had ST8 bothered to read the Joint Proposal, or testimony in the rate case, or had it researched how interruptible contracts work, it would understand that NYSEG’s offering of interruptible service contracts to large customers with backup fuel enables the utility to avoid overbuilding the gas network just for rare peak periods. It further allows NYSEG to keep ratepayer costs low. In fact, provisions of the JP will make such contracts more attractive in an effort to encourage their use throughout NYSEG’s territory. “Eliminating the need for interruptible service” should not be the IDA’s, ST8’s or a utility’s goal: Interruptible contracts make good economic and technical sense.

Perhaps most absurd is that ST8’s report proposes to expand fossil-fuel use at two Oneonta sites. ST8 suggests that the state might fund diesel-powered “microgrids”. Of course, burning diesel to generate electricity makes no financial or energy sense particularly for the railyard or industrial park: NYSEG can serve both sites with electricity from the grid.

In fact, NYSEG has already identified local improvements to serve the Oneonta railyard, and may even provide grant money to help. If ST8 had read the comments it received the first week of April 2020 when it first suggested building microgrids, the idea would have been dumped. But now, six months later, ST8 recommends that these projects receive “further analysis.” Offering proposals that make no energy sense and conflict with state climate goals should be an embarrassment for an organization that claims expertise in regional planning.

People seeking to understand what has happened, what is happening, or what needs to happen with regional energy could inform themselves with newspapers and other public documents while filing ST8’s “regional energy assessment” where it belongs, in the trash.

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