New Research Boosts Arguments Against Need for Raritan Bay Pipeline

Tom Johnson | April 9, 2020 | Energy & Environment
While National Grid claims pipeline will alleviate shortage in natural gas supply, study concludes the company will likely have a substantial gas surplus
Credit: Fazia_ from Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Raritan Bay

Hoping to block a controversial new gas pipeline, environmental groups disputed that an assessment is needed for a pipeline that would cut through a portion of New Jersey and under Raritan Bay to supply New York City and Long Island.

The proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project is aimed at meeting growing demand for natural gas in parts of New York, according to National Grid, which has claimed a shortfall of gas supply has prevented it from servicing new customers.

The project, if approved, would be built by the Williams Companies, but so far it’s been denied permits by both regulators in New Jersey and New York. The company has reapplied for permits in both states, which are currently under review.

A new Synapse Energy Economics analysis concluded that the company has not shown that it faces a supply and demand gap, and in fact, is expected to have a substantial surplus of gas capacity by 2034 at the earliest.

“Given the undeniable evidence against any need for the NESE in New York, the complete lack of public benefit for New Jersey, and the harmful environmental and health impacts posed by this project, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection should deny the pending permit applications for this pipeline,’’ said Chris Miller, executive director of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, which commissioned the report.

Utility customers left with stranded costs?

The Synapse analysis argued the proposed construction of the pipeline doesn’t make sense in the context of the deep carbon reductions mandated by a New York law, which calls for an 85% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions in the state by 2050.

That same argument is being advanced in New Jersey to oppose pipelines in the state, citing the Global Warming Reduction Act, which seeks an 80% cut in carbon emissions by mid-century. Besides being contrary to state directives, construction of new gas pipelines could leave utility customers stranded with huge costs to pay off the projects, environmentalists say.

In its analysis, Synapse echoed those arguments, saying National Grid’s proposal to amplify gas capacity is not compatible with New York’s climate change policies. In National Grid’s analysis, it forecast peak winter demand would lead to large amounts of capacity shortfalls in the 2030s.

“This new fact-based report on the complete lack of need for the NESE project makes it evident that the NJDEP as well as the New York permitting authorities must once again deny all permits and put an end to this pipeline,’’ said Michele Langa, staff attorney at NY/NJ Baykeeper.

The report was submitted to DEP in advance of the closure of the comment period a week from Friday.