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Out of gas

National Grid's moratorium keeping Lynbrook businesses from opening

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A National Grid moratorium on new applications for natural-gas service is hindering several new businesses from opening in Lynbrook, according to officials.

“We have new businesses ready to go, and they called for gas service, but National Grid won’t give them gas service,” Mayor Alan Beach told the Herald after the June 17 village board meeting. “We’re at a standstill.”

In May, National Grid stopped processing new applications for service, including for homes, large and small businesses and development projects, after the state Department of Environmental Conservation rejected a water-quality permit application for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, which, as of now, cannot move forward.

The project sought to expand the existing Williams Transco natural-gas pipeline through New York City by 2020. The pipeline is a 10,000-mile-long interstate transmission system that transports much of the natural gas used in the Northeast.

The expansion project was to provide additional capacity for National Grid, the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast, serving 1.8 million customers across Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. The plan was also contingent on New Jersey’s issuing of a water-quality permit, because the pipeline travels through waterways there. The utility sought the expansion because, it said, consumers were maxing out gas consumption.

In a statement, Wendy Ladd, National Grid's strategic coordinator, said that the DEC has extended the review of the NESE application through July 13. Until the extension is over, the moratorium will remain in place.

"We remain cautiously optimistic that the project will proceed on schedule and be in service for Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island customers by the winter of 20-21," she said. "We currently are not processing applications for new and expanded firm natural gas service from residential, commercial and industrial customers until all permits are received and the project is allowed to proceed."

She noted that without NESE, National Grid will not be able to supply natural gas to new commercial, industrial and residential customers to heat homes or help run businesses, "putting the region’s economic growth at risk, as well as impeding state and city carbon emission goals."

One such new business in Lynbrook is Il Pozzo Wine Bar & Kitchen, on Atlantic Avenue. “We’re planning to open in the third week of July,” owner Dominic Natoli said. “We’re hoping that the gas will not be a problem.”

Natoli said he tested the gas service, and it worked, but he was unsure whether there would be problems when the eatery is operating at full capacity, and said he was worried that the opening could be in jeopardy.

Two other businesses seeking to move in near the Long Island Rail Road station have had issues because of the gas situation, Beach said. He contacted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the properties, to ask for help, he said, but National Grid said that the moratorium would continue. Beach said he also wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and planned to ask State Sen. Todd Kaminsky for help as well.

At the June 17 meeting, Beach asked residents to sign a petition urging National Grid to reconsider the moratorium. “We need the people to complain on Long Island that we need gas service,” he said. “They wanted us not to use oil, so we went from oil to gas, and now they’re refusing gas to us. This is going to kill us if we can’t move forward in this village.”

The DEC rejected National Grid’s water-quality permit application for the pipeline project in May, saying that the plan, as conceived, would “result in water-quality violations,” and thus would fail to meet New York’s water-quality standards.

In the meantime, National Grid continues to receive requests for service, but is not processing applications for new customers until the project is approved. Projects such as the Belmont Park redevelopment have been told that National Grid cannot provide firm gas service without the new pipeline.

Beach said that developers would struggle with any new projects until the moratorium is lifted, noting that there are several short- and long-term plans in the works for the village.

“This is an ongoing battle for us,” he said. “We have multiple businesses in our village right now that could possibly open, but they can’t open without gas service. This is a tremendous hurt to the village.”