Joe Mahoney

ALBANY — Raising the stakes in a tense battle over a pipeline project, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to cancel the operating certificate of National Grid — one of New York’s biggest utility firms — for the downstate region after the company refused to provide new natural gas connections.

“I’m not going to let the people of New York be bullied and exploited,” Cuomo, a Democrat, told a New York City television station after giving top National Grid officials a 14-day ultimatum that he plans to revoke the company’s operating certificate in that region.

National Grid has thousands of customers in the North Country, western New York and the Oneonta region. But they would not be immediately impacted if the Cuomo administration were to make good on its threat to revoke the company’s certificate to provide gas service to downstate residents.

The company declared a moratorium downstate after the Cuomo administration refused to allow the proposed construction of the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a $1 billion gas pipeline backed by Williams Partners.

The latter company is also a prime investor in the Constitution Pipeline, a proposed transmission project whose route into New York from Pennsylvania would take it through Delaware County, just east of Oneonta, as well as into Schoharie County. That project has also been blocked by the Cuomo administration, citing environmental impacts.

Amplifying the threat, Cuomo said in the television interview that if National Grid fails to issue a plan for providing future gas supply, “we’ll find a utility who can.”

“…A lot of companies would like to have this franchise, so they have 14 days to explain to the people of this state what the alternatives are, and there can’t be a moratorium,” he said.

Cuomo’s threat against a state-regulated utility drew a sharp rebuke from Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan, (R-Suffolk County).

He said the threat illustrates Cuomo’s “failure to lead for the people of this state, and his willingness to cater to extreme environmentalists who have no real plan to solve this crisis.”

National Grid said in a statement that it will “respond accordingly” to Cuomo’s letter, though offered no hint of the specific steps it may take.

Gavin Donohue, the head of the Independent Power Producers of New York, called the governor’s threat to revoke the certificate of a major utility player in New York “unprecedented.”

“This makes New York a scarier place to do business,” Donohue told CNHI in an interview. “They (National Grid) have been doing what they have been supposed to do as a regulated utility.”

But Anne Marie Garti, an environmental lawyer who represents a grassroots group called Stop the Pipeline in the fight to derail the Constitution Pipeline, cheered Cuomo’s suggestion that National Grid has used the moratorium to pressure the state to allow the downstate pipeline project.

Cuomo, in his letter, argued National Grid should have looked into other supply options before denying new connections.

“Gas can be trucked, shipped, or barged, and other infrastructure could be proposed or additional unloading facilities installed,” he said.

The trucking of compressed natural gas, a business practice that has grown in recent years in the upstate region, has been controversial, with environmental activists calling such trucks “virtual pipelines” posing hazards on highways.

The Business Council of New York, which lobbies at the statehouse on behalf of business interests, had no public comment on Cuomo’s threat.

But Ken Girardin, a policy analyst for the Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany think tank, said the governor’s action eliminates “any remaining illusion” that the state Public Service Commission — New York’s primary utility watchdog — has been acting independently under the Cuomo administration.

“When you give a single state agency so much power to regulate such a big part of the economy, the last thing you want is a politician manipulating that agency to satisfy his personal political whims, Girardin said.

According to Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, the ongoing showdown over the downstate pipeline has stalled new home construction and delayed oil-to-gas conversions planned by numerous businesses and property owners.

© 2019 Press-Republican

You may also like

NY Health Department Asserts Cuomo Order ‘Could Not Be the Driver’ of Nursing-Home Deaths in the State

Zachary Evans The New York State Department of Health has concluded that an executive order requiring nursing homes to readmit coronavirus patients, issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo, was not the driving factor behind coronavirus deaths in the s Read More

EDITORIAL: Nursing home report requires a second opinion

It’s great that the Cuomo administration and its Health Department issued a report this week detailing the causes of nursing home deaths at the height of the state’s coronavirus outbreak. And it’s great that the department Read More

What we know (and don’t know) about NY COVID-19 nursing home deaths after DOH report

David Robinson The state Department of Health's own analysis of COVID-19 nursing home deaths has renewed politically the charged debate over how and why coronavirus ravaged the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Read More

Faced with $10B deficit, MTA says it’s eyeing cutting overtime spending

Alfonso Castillo The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is adding urgency to the agency’s efforts to curtail overtime numbers that critics say remain alarmingly high. The MTA said at Wed Read More

City and state officials contend with a dire future as New York reopens

Brian Pascus As New York begins to reopen from the Covid-19 lockdown, Read More

Pandemic, recession don’t bring down school budgets

Stephen T. Watson This year's school elections were delayed and then shifted entirely to voting by mail thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, which also shut down schools here and across the country. District officials worried this new method of Read More

Here’s Cuomo’s Plan for Reopening New York

Jesse McKinley ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday presented a soft blueprint for how New York State’s economy might begi Read More

States with few virus cases get big share of relief aid

Geoff Mulvihill Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are not epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet these four states scored big this spri Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.