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National Grid Gas Nightmare: CBS2 Demanding Answers As Long Islanders Stuck Without New Hookups While Utility Seeks Pipeline Extension

LYNBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - There's a ray of hope Friday night for dozens of Long Island businesses impacted by a natural gas moratorium.

The state Department of Public Service is expanding an investigation into National Grid, vowing to force the power company to meet its obligations to its customers.

Il Pozzo Wine Bar and Kitchen in Lynbrook has only been open for three weeks, but its fate is already uncertain. It's the victim of a National Grid cutback, which the owner says he was never warned about. The stove is working, but not the oven.

"We just opened. We can't afford to be closed for a day," said owner Dominic Natoli. "My fear would be losing money or possibly closing."

He's not the only one. Forty business districts throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties are impacted by a National Grid moratorium on new gas hookups.

Lynbrook Pipeline Map
(credit: Williams for LRNA)

In Farmingdale, the mayor says construction on a 100-seat restaurant and new houses - worth up to $12 million - are all on hold.

"They're hurting the economy," said Farmingdale mayor Ralph Ekstrand. "The only way this can be resolved is by the state of New York. I have written letters to the state. I've written letters to the governor."

"You're talking $10-$12 million are being held up in construction because of it... it's phenomenal in my mind that in this time and in our country we can't get natural gas delivered," he added.

CBS2 demanded answers from the state and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and got action.

National Grid, which declared a moratorium on gas hook ups because an application for a new gas pipeline was rejected by the state in May, is now under the microscope. The state Department of Public Service is using the complaints to expand an investigation of the utility.

"The Department of Public Service will hold National Grid accountable for meeting its obligations to consumers and make sure that promises made for firm natural gas services are promises kept," said Department of Public Service spokesman James Denn.

The agency is charged with regulating state utilities. What will they be determining?

"Whether National Grid can safely accommodate projects that had been expected to come online before the end of the year, and whether National Grid had approved these hook ups," Denn said.

With the state trying reduce its carbon footprint, some advocacy groups claim the moratorium may force people to go back to using oil or propane, which are bigger environmental hazards.

"Unfortunately, the alternatives people are looking to in this moratorium are going back to oil heat or propane, which is two uses most energy activists, including us, don't want to see," said Eric Alexander, the director of Vision Long Island.

Others wonder if the moratorium is a pressure tactic to get approval of the pipeline. National Grid emphatically says it is not, saying in a statement:

"We've provided system models, engineering analyses, growth and demand forecasts, supply data, and other information that conclusively demonstrates the extent of the current constraints and our inability to serve new customers."

The Department of Public Service is hoping to issue a ruling in the not-too-distant future.

Con Edison also has a moratorium on new natural gas customers for southern Westchester county.

It's been in place since January.

It is also considering doing that for New York City.


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