Cuomo: 'You need natural gas' as bridge to renewable energy - The Buffalo News

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Cuomo: 'You need natural gas' as bridge to renewable energy

By 2030, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants half of New York State's energy to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

He expects natural gas to play a big part in bridging the gap as coal and nuclear plants around the state are decommissioned.

But Cuomo, in a meeting Tuesday morning at The Buffalo News, defended the state Department of Environmental Conservation's decision last Friday to reject National Fuel's proposed half-billion Northern Access Pipeline.

"I think in all probability you need natural gas," Cuomo said. "I don't think you can get from here to there without using natural gas."

He added: "The conduit for natural gas then becomes the question. And pipelines, in general? Fine. As long as they're done well and they're done correctly."

The DEC concluded the gas supply company's proposal, which required it to cross more than 190 creeks and streams over a 97-mile path from Pennsylvania to Erie County, failed to comply with water quality standards.

Because of that, the agency denied National Fuel's water quality certificate, which was necessary for construction.

National Fuel calls DEC's denial of pipeline project 'troubling'

The company said the state's denial of the proposal could be costly.

Those costs include: a loss of more than 1,000 new jobs, millions of dollars in lost tax revenue to school districts and municipalities, potentially higher costs for energy consumers and a reduction in the state’s energy reliability.

“While New York proclaims it is ‘open for business,’ and a ‘premier place to invest and grow,’ the DEC’s action belies that claim,” Ronald J. Tanski, president and CEO of the National Fuel Gas Supply Co. said in a statement Monday.

Earlier Tuesday, the state's conference of International Union of Operating Engineers called the state's decision a "misguided effort" that "hurts working families."

"It appears that DEC has an agenda based on appealing to the emotions of environmental activists rather than the facts of a good energy policy for the state and the creation of good paying jobs in Western New York," the union said.

When questioned about statements he made in his 2017 State of the State address suggesting the state "double-down" on keeping gas extracted by deep-well, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from neighboring states out of New York, Cuomo said no such policy exists per se.

"DEC would say the pipeline did not sufficiently safeguard the environment and water quality," Cuomo said.

"DEC would say there are no 1,000 jobs," he said. "Those were 1,000 temporary construction jobs and as soon as the construction was over, there were only about five permanent jobs. And, the risk to the environment and water quality and degradation of the environment far outweighed the five permanent jobs."

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper issued a statement Tuesday lauding Cuomo and the DEC for the decision on a project they say was "right" for New York State and, if allowed to go through, would have "resulted in a significant negative cumulative impact on the region’s water resources."

"Of particular concern was the significant impact on head-water forest and stream ecosystems in the upper Niagara River Watershed," according to Riverkeeper. "The streams in this portion of the watershed are home to populations of native brook trout and provide drinking water to the communities residing within the surrounding region."

National Fuel pipeline would cut through 192 WNY streams

The governor added he generally supports pipelines for getting natural gas from one place to another.

"I think you can do a pipeline, you just have to do it right," Cuomo said. "Now, doing it right is sometimes more expensive. Sometimes you have to go around environmentally sensitive land, sometimes you have to go around watershed areas because if a pipeline breaks in a watershed, you have a significant problem."

National Fuel officials didn't have much to say about the governor's comments Tuesday.

"Engaging in a point-counter point discussion through the media with Gov. Cuomo will not get our pipeline built," said Karen L. Merkel, a National Fuel spokeswoman.

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