Last year, the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency and Sen. Jim Seward met behind closed doors with the president of NYSEG. They cooked up plans for a new pipeline to be paid for by you, NYSEG’s customers. Instead of replacing a 25-mile segment of 8-inch pipe from Norwich with a 10-inch line as previously planned, they want to lay 50 miles of 12-inch pipeline between DeRuyter and Oneonta. This back-room deal could triple the amount of fracked gas to Oneonta and quadruple the cost of simply replacing an old pipeline.

The company’s original proposal was priced at $49 million. According to NYSEG, the new scheme will cost at least $203 million. Industry estimates put the bill at half a billion dollars.

We mustn’t let the “New York” in New York State Electric & Gas fool us: NYSEG is a foreign-owned corporation, a subsidiary of Avangrid with little concern for its customers, our region or the planet. Fines levied against Avangrid for electric outages demonstrate the company’s disregard for public welfare. Moreover, NYSEG’s current misguided push to expand fossil fuels instead of making electrical upgrades — essential to support renewable energy and lower emissions — runs counter to state climate goals recently codified into law.

NYSEG — and the IDA — claim that more gas will solve the “interruptible” problem for customers such as SUNY Oneonta. Recall, SUNY Oneonta may burn oil the equivalent of four days mid-winter during periods of peak gas demand. But instead of fairly compensating SUNY for the occasional inconvenience, the IDA wants NYSEG to charge the rest of us for an oversized pipeline likely to remain underutilized for decades.

NYSEG claims that expanding the DeRuyter pipeline will allow the company to avoid running its Norwich compressor station. But the Norwich compressor runs less than 1% of the time and costs only a few thousand dollars a year to operate.

Finally, NYSEG tells us that the DeRuyter is old and needs to be replaced. Yet, when asked, the company claims there are no leaks. Even if its replacement is warranted, that doesn’t justify installing a new pipe that is twice as big and will cost millions of dollars more.

So what’s the real reason behind this oversized speculative project? It’s simple. The Otsego County IDA, Senator Seward, and NYSEG are promoting business-as-usual fossil-fuel expansion.

Pretending that bigger pipelines don’t carry more gas, NYSEG disingenuously says that the Dominion Pipeline, which supplies the DeRuyter, is “fully subscribed.” By the way, The Daily Star is also “fully subscribed.” The Star sells the newspapers it prints. If the Star gets more customers, it will print more papers. Forty thousand horsepower of new compression on the Dominion Pipeline means it can push a lot more gas. If NYSEG wants more in the future, Dominion will provide it.

Washington’s mad rush to export fracked gas to the world will also impact gas prices at home. When shipping liquefied natural gas  to Europe becomes commonplace, our prices will double. When LNG is shipped regularly to Japan, our price will triple. Unless Seward and the IDA are helping NYSEG lay the groundwork to strangle rate payers and local business in the future, they must take a different approach, as other utilities are doing.

Some utilities realize they must “decapitalize” older pipelines, pulling dollars out of the ground instead of laying more pipe. Others are pursuing “non-pipe alternatives,” such as incentives for electric heat pumps, in an effort to cut gas consumption.

Should energy policy affecting the future of our region, the climate, and the wallets and pocketbooks of NYSEG customers be decided through backroom deals? Is that in the best interest of rate payers and consistent with state law? No.

The message behind recently enacted climate legislation is clear: New York must use less fossil fuels tomorrow than today.

We need to say no to NYSEG’s pipe dreams and plan for a sustainable future, instead of taking directions from a politician and rogue agency unable to move into the 21st century.

Eklund is a councilman for the town of New Lisbon.

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