No-moratorium: National Grid to lift gas embargo

Andrew Cuomo
Governor Cuomo announced an investigation into National Grid in May for denying gas service to new customers.
Photo by Paul Martinka

National Grid announced that it will immediately resume connecting Brooklyn customers to natural gas on Monday — ending a six-month standoff between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the British-based utility company that left thousands of residents without heat. 

“This agreement is a victory for customers,” Cuomo said. “National Grid will pay a significant penalty for its failure to address the supply issue, its abuse of its customers, and the adverse economic impact they have caused.” 

National Grid implemented a moratorium on new gas hookups for new customers in May, shortly after state regulators nixed plans for a 23-mile long gas pipeline off of the Coney Island coast. 

Elected officials overwhelmingly accused the company of holding New Yorkers hostage in an effort to get permission for the pipeline — including in a letter penned by 17 Council members in July. 

And the embargo on new customers was particularly devastating for Kings County entrepreneurs, including many would-be business owners who were unable to open their doors due to lack of gas.  

The Interim President of National Grid — which runs a state-granted monopoly in Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Long Island — leadership hit back on the strong-arming accusations, arguing that the moratorium was a necessary evil spurred by supply shortages that would inevitably come if the pipeline was not built. 

“Every decision we make is driven by National Grid’s commitment to provide safe and reliable service to our customers, including the decision to implement the moratorium,” said Badar Khan. “We understand the frustrations of everyone who experienced a delay in service during this period and regret that we did not provide more notice or explanation to our customers about the moratorium.”

The parties reached the new agreement to resume gas hookups amid calls for state regulators to strip National Grid of their state-granted monopoly status — which Cuomo had threatened to do if new customers continued to be denied service.

Under the newly struck deal, the utility giant will present solutions to meet long-term supply needs throughout the company’s coverage areas — with a June 2020 deadline to identify a plan, slated to be implemented by Fall 2021. 

Also, National Grid has agreed to pay a $36 million penalty to compensate customers who were adversely impacted by the moratorium and to support energy-efficiency measures and clean gas solutions. 

To ensure that National Grid respects the newly forged agreement, the state has appointed an independent monitor to oversee gas supply operations which will be paid for by the gas company. 

National Grid’s newly-made concessions bring about an abrupt end to their prolonged power-play, which not only affected residents and small businesses dealing with new construction, but also city agencies — with one project to construct a comfort station in Canarsie suffering a months-long delay after the gas company refused to provide a gas line.

State Attorney General Letitia James, whose office had been probing National Grid’s questionable tactics, celebrated the deal as a win for New Yorkers. 

“My office launched an investigation after hearing about the profound effect the moratorium has had on individuals, small businesses, and New York’s economy,” said James. “As winter begins, New Yorkers can rest assured that National Grid’s moratorium is finally over and the thousands of homeowners and businesses denied service will be able to turn their heat on.”