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Natural Gas May 10, 2019 01:00:27 AM

Disagreements Continue Over Lansing Natural Gas Moratorium

OilMonster Author
NYSEG started with a plan to bring more natural gas to the Town, but today the company advocates making the moratorium permanent.
Disagreements Continue Over Lansing Natural Gas Moratorium

SEATTLE (Oil Monster): Proponents and opponents of making the Lansing natural gas moratorium permanent are getting ready to face off in another round of meetings with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) and New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG).  At issue is whether or not a moratorium on new natural gas customers in the Town and Village of Lansing will be made permanent, as well as the larger picture of what kind of energy should be used in the town, especially for new development.

"Lansing is far from alone," says Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson. "Westchester County now has a gas moratorium and other areas downstate are facing similar constraints. However, given the state's response with the Clean Energy Action Plan – moving away from gas to solve the energy demands of Westchester and Lansing – it is just not realistic to expect a new pipeline to be approved for Lansing. Instead, Lansing can lead the way into the future. It can and should serve as a pilot community for NYS to demonstrate how to succeed with 'non-pipes alternatives' if given full financial resources to incentivize conversion from gas to electric heating in our buildings.

Opponents of the moratorium say that the dearth of natural gas has already cost new businesses and jobs, and that natural gas is needed as a 'transition' form of energy while alternative technologies are developed to the point where they can practically deliver energy traditional sources currently deliver.  Proponents note that as current customers switch to renewable alternatives that they will free some natural gas capacity for those new business uses that absolutely require natural gas, and the rest should be using renewable energy anyway, notably heat pumps.

NYSEG started with a plan to bring more natural gas to the Town, but today the company advocates making the moratorium permanent.  The current infrastructure had reached the capacity of its ability to safely and reliably deliver natural gas to Lansing.  NYSEG said that it could not reliably deliver natural gas to the Lansing school campus during peak use scenarios, which is at the end of NYSEG's natural gas infrastructure in the Town.  In 2014 NYSEG proposed a new pipeline to bring natural gas from Freeville, along West Dryden and Farrell Roads to the Warren Road area of Lansing.  But opposition to the pipeline, particularly in the Town of Dryden made the prospect of getting easements for the pipeline very bleak.  And opponents of any use of fossil fuels weighed in, saying that no new natural gas infrastructure should be considered.

In February of 2017 the Tompkins County Energy and Economic Development Task Force (EEDTF) announced its support of a NYSEG plan that would impose a moratorium on new gas customers in the Lansings. The two-part plan proposed that 1) a compressor would be installed in the Town of Lansing to insure a steady flow of gas delivery to existing customers, and 2) creative solutions would be proposed to reduce natural gas use, and the existing moratorium on new natural gas customers in Lansing would be extended indefinitely.  The three principal Lansing elected officials -- Hartill, Lansing Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne, and Tompkins County Legislator (District 6, which covers most of the Town of Lansing) Mike Sigler -- said at that time that they had not been invited or included in the discussion, and all three have fiercely advocated to lift the moratorium.  EEDTF members countered that Legislator Glenn Morey (District 7) represents Lansing.  But Sigler, LaVigne, and Hartill pointed out that he represents a sliver of the Town, and a portion of the town that may be more likely to support natural gas delivery at that.  Legislator Deborah Dawson (District 10) represents the Villages of Lansing and Cayuga heights.

By December of 2017 the PSC had approved the compressor proposal, but NYSEG later reneged, claiming a new analysis of their data showed that the current infrastructure does safely and reliably deliver natural gas, even to the Lansing schools.  Officially the pipeline is not off the table.  A Request For Proposals was unsuccessful in soliciting new ideas for providing energy to Lansing.  Now local officials are planning meetings with the PSC and NYSEG to talk about next steps and current concerns.

Monday Village of Lansing Mayor Donald Hartill accused Robertson and other non-Lansing officials of setting a May 22 meeting that he, LaVigne, and Sigler are not available to attend.

"There has been a strong-agenda-driven campaign to say 'no more natural gas, period'," Hartill told the Village Trustees. "There will be a meeting on the 22nd of May which neither Ed, nor myself, nor the Town of Lansing representative to the County Legislature (Sigler) will be able to attend."

Robertson had a different take on the meeting.  She said that as of Tuesday morning the May 22 date had not been confirmed, and was only one of several dates being considered.  But Thursday she reported that May 22 meeting had been confirmed.

"We see this as a huge opportunity," she said. "I've spoken at length with Mike Sigler and I agree with his characterization that the various parties are not that far apart in our goals. We want to see economic development and growth to support good-paying jobs in the Village and Town of Lansing, but that development is now being stymied by the lack of natural gas."

Agreement on the need for more natural gas is far from unanimous in the Town and Village.  In April LaVigne himself said that he would support an effort to not only get the Cayuga Solar 75 acre, 18 megawatt solar farm funded and built, but would like to see a 200 acre solar farm there that he said might be enough to motivate the company to abandon plans to repower the power plant with natural gas.  At the same time he is a strong proponent of bringing more natural gas to Lansing to encourage new development, particularly business development in the Town.

But the Lansing Town Board is split on the issue, more or less along party lines.  Nevertheless, even those who want natural gas now say they don't want it forever.  They say that it is a necessity now as a 'transition' solution while renewable energy technology is being developed to the point where it could replace fossil fuels once and for all.

In the Village Hartill said that he has received 'a significant number of emails' on the topic, all opposing lifting the moratorium or bringing more natural gas to the Lansings.  


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