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National Grid Gas Nightmare: Cuomo Moves To Revoke Utility's License To Operate Downstate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - There's been a stunning move against one of New York's major gas suppliers.

Tuesday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo notified National Grid that he plans to revoke their license to supply natural gas to customers in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island unless they end the moratorium that's been in place since May.

WEB EXTRA: Read the letter (.pdf)

For months, CBS2 has been telling you about the pipeline pawns.

When CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer first visited the Brooklyn Philly Pretzel Factory, Daniella Nelson and Jude Johnson were a couple without hope, losing tens of thousands of dollars with empty shelves and equipment that couldn't be used because National Grid refused to give them gas.

"We've invested most of our savings in this. We've invested almost $200,000," Nelson said.

But after Kramer demanded answers from the governor, he stepped in. Now, Brooklyn Philly Pretzel is open for business -- one of 1,100 businesses and homeowners, former pipeline pawns, who now have gas.

That left some 2,600 homeowners and businesses in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island still out in the cold. They're victims of a gas moratorium declared by the utility as it fights with the state over approval of a controversial pipeline.

That infuriated the governor, who notified National Grid he intends to revoke their license to operate.

"I believe National Grid abused us," Cuomo said. "A utility does not have a god-given right to serve the public. National Grid does not have a god-given right."

Jude Johnson says taking action against National Grid is long overdue.

"I want them to understand that they can't use people as quote unquote pawns," he said.

In a phone interview, Cuomo credited CBS2 with bringing the issue to his attention.

"Your reporting has been right. I mean, you reported on the real-life consequences of what they did. They literally turned off the gas on people as we're coming in to the winter months," he said.

There was the owner of a Vietnamese restaurant in Bensonhurst.

"Every night, I cannot sleep. I think about the restaurant, no gas and my dream of a future gone," restaurateur Peter Lee said.

There was the Park Slope homeowner.

"We have nowhere to go. Our lease is up in a month, we have no more money left. We need to move into our house," said Julie Levin.

There was the United Chinese Association in Bensonhurst where, without gas, 500 seniors won't be fed.

"They cannot have lunch in our center because we cannot open the center for them," said Ansen Tang.

Watch Lisa Rozner's report --


The governor questioning the need for a moratorium.

Kramer: "Was it a real moratorium?"
Cuomo: "It was a real moratorium that they imposed because they said they didn't have any more gas supply. They then said only way could get gas was from a new pipeline, and that's just not true, Marcia ... I'm saying they created the crisis, they then created the moratorium."

It came as New York faces a tough winter and National Gird President John Buckner told CBS2 just last month the shortages could force the equivalent of blackouts.

The governor gave National Grid 14 days to come up with a plan to get more gas to meet its obligations. A spokesperson for the utility says they will respond "within the time frame" outlined by the governor.

He says they can truck, barge or shop gas to New York, emphasizing there should be no need for any New Yorker served by the company to be without natural gas this winter.

And to the question of whether the governor can cancel National Grid's license? The answer is yes. He's done it before: He got rid of LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority, in 2013 after Superstorm Sandy.

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