NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)– Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered National Grid to immediately connect more than 1,100 homes and small business that were denied service.
For months, CBS2 has brought you stories of families and business ownersdenied natural gas service.
They were used as pawns in a fight between New York and National Grid.
Now Cuomo has told National Grid they need to get more than 1,100 customers back online now.
CBS2 demanded answers, and now there’s dramatic action.
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer has been on top of this story from the beginning. After she demanded answers from Cuomo, he promised an investigation.
Sometimes talking truth to power works, and in this case, Cuomo took swift action to help more than 1,100 small business owners and residential customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.
But National Grid is not off the hook. There will be a new investigation into corporate negligence, and the energy company could be on the hook for millions in penalties for failing to connect existing residential customers with natural gas as required by public service law.
They were pipeline pawns.
There was the owner of a Vietnamese restaurant in Bensonhurst.
“Every night I can not sleep. I think about the restaurant. No gas, and my dream of a future gone,” Peter Lee said.
There was a 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,” Julie Levin said.
There was the United Chinese Association in Bensonhurst where, without gas, 500 seniors won’t be fed.
“We cannot have lunch in our center, because we cannot open the center to them,” said Ansen Tang.
And the owner of Il Pozzo Wine Bar and Kitchen in Lynnbrook.
“My fear would be losing money or closing,” said owner Dominic Natoli.
Now, they could be pipeline victors.
Web Extra – Brooklyn Family Speaks Out After Cuomo’s National Grid Order:
The state Public Service Commission has ordered National Grid to immediately connect natural gas lines for 1,157 residential customers and small business owners denied hookups under a moratorium declared by the company as it fights with the state over building a new pipeline.
Web Extra – More Families Rejoice After Learning Their Gas Will Finally Be Turned On By National Grid:
“It is the fundamental responsibility of our utilities to provide reliable service,” Cuomo said Friday. “National Grid has acted in bad faith throughout this process — first by denying over 1,100 eligible customers with service and now by failing to fulfill its core responsibility. Today, National Grid is being ordered to immediately connect those 1,100 customers, and I have directed [the Department of Public Service] to expand their ongoing investigation to include potential negligence in not preparing for the months ahead. Make no mistake, New York will hold National Grid accountable.”
Some 3,700 customers have been denied service. State officials tell CBS2 the ones getting the service immediately are those whose service was inactive for one reason or another – turned off to do renovations, for example.
But the state also ordered National Grid to make investments in energy efficiency and take demand reducing measures that may allow the company to provide service to many more who were told “no gas for you.”
How did this come about? Quite simply, Kramer demanded answers of Cuomo.
“I wonder what you say to people who can’t open their apartments and their homes because they turned off their gas to do renovations and National Grid won’t let them turn it back on,” Kramer asked.
“No utility should be doing that,” Cuomo said.
“So what are you going to do about it?” Kramer asked.
Cuomo’s answer came Friday. In addition to the immediate hookups, the governor asked the state Department of Public Service to determine whether the company was negligent, didn’t plan for the gas needs of customers this winter, failed to anticipate demand. They’re facing millions of dollars in fines.
As Cuomo said when Kramer originally asked him about it:
“If you’re saying that there are current gas clients who are being denied gas, that’s a health and safety violation.”
“We are obviously disappointed in the NY PSC’s Order issued today. We stand by our analysis and there are very real gas supply constraints in the northeast,” National Grid said in a statement. “In the meantime, we have been working to identify unprecedented temporary solutions to help mitigate this situation and will immediately begin connecting the more than 1,100 applicants who have been identified in the order.”
Chaya Horowitz is part of a family of nine that were denied a hookup by National Grid. When CBS2’s Jessica Moore told Chaya the news Friday, she thanked CBS2 for demanding answers, and slammed National Grid for using families like hers as pipeline pawns.
“I was really excited. And I want to thank CBS for being the only one who are working and helping people because it’s crazy, really crazy that a company can get away with it,” she said.
Kramer also asked a spokesman for the governor about whether National Grid could be replaced, lose its monopoly because of what’s happened.
She was told “It’s just too early in the process to tell.”
National Grid – which has declined repeated offers by CBS2 for an on-camera interview – has said it was refusing service to thousands of customers, claiming a gas shortage. All the while it has been fighting with the state over a new pipeline, and has said “any incremental gas load will exacerbate the current supply shortage.”
Following Friday’s reports, the utility finally released a statement in the current situation and New York’s order to connect customers’ gas lines:
“We are obviously disappointed in the NY PSC’s Order issued today. We stand by our analysis and there are very real gas supply constraints in the northeast. In the meantime, we have been working to identify unprecedented temporary solutions to help mitigate this situation and will immediately begin connecting the more than 1,100 applicants who have been identified in the order.”
National Grid’s proposed pipeline, if approved, would not be in service until next year.