Albany Democrats’ war on natural gas could have deadly consequences

January 16, 2024

Originally published in the Buffalo News. Written by Congressman Nick Langworthy/Joseph Cooke

The December 2022 blizzard caused many deaths and much suffering. Rep. Nick Langworthy argues that Albany Democrats are risking danger with their plans for reducing the use of natural gas.

Last month marked one year since Winter Storm Elliot hit the Northeast, tragically claiming the lives of 43 Western New Yorkers with 106 total casualties. The storm left hundreds of thousands of homes without power, resulting in the deaths of 11 Western New Yorkers without heat. The importance of reliable energy during New York winters cannot be overstated. It saves lives – yet Gov. Kathy Hochul and radicals in Albany continue to chip away at access to natural gas in our state.

Winter Storm Elliot is not the first time our state has experienced a devastating cold-weather cyclone, and it won’t be the last. It is up to local, state and federal officials, paired with private energy partners, to ensure we are prepared for future winters. In November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a full report of their analysis of what went wrong to cause the widespread outages during Elliot and how we can fortify our natural gas infrastructure.

The issues highlighted in the report are nothing short of alarming, and illustrate that our state narrowly avoided a much larger energy crisis. The report states, “In the wake of massive natural gas production declines, and to a lesser extent, declines in natural gas processing, the natural gas fuel supply struggled to meet both residential heating load and generating unit demand for natural gas … ” The report also noted that large numbers of natural gas-powered generating units failed as they were not prepared for the cold weather, and electric grid operators were unprepared to meet demands.

It’s clear that we have a lot of work to do at the state and federal levels to establish winter weather reliability standards for our natural gas infrastructure. However, addressing the need for increased domestic energy production and pipelines would be one of the largest factors to increase supply and reliability. Unfortunately, the needs of the constituents in our state face an ideological wall held up by Democrats in Albany.

Hochul has been vocal about where she stands and has implemented the policies to prove it – she would rather appease the radical environmentalists of New York City than ensure New Yorkers’ access to safe, dependable natural gas. The governor and State Assembly have already instituted an unconstitutional ban on natural gas hookups in new construction, perpetuated an all-out fracking ban and set unrealistic standards to push our state cut emissions to zero, though we only account for 0.4% of global emissions.

We have ample opportunity to not only prevent future tragedies, but also put our state at the forefront of natural gas production – the Southern Tier sits on the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest sources of untapped natural gas. For political reasons, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking while our neighbors in Pennsylvania are safely extracting this resource while transforming their local economy and pulling those communities out of poverty. Reversing this ban and the subsequent infrastructure that would follow would increase winter storm readiness significantly.

Since 2016, Democrats in Albany have played a role in the cancellation of major interstate natural gas pipeline projects – including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Penn East Pipeline, Colonial Pipeline and Constitution Pipeline – that would have provided important natural gas distribution improvements in New York State, as well as throughout the Northeast.

Hochul’s administration has also championed the implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a law that is intended to eliminate the utilization of natural gas and other sources of energy in our state by 2040. This law will increase utility bills and push New Yorkers away from a source of energy and heat – natural gas – that has worked affordably and reliably for decades.

These Green New Deal policies don’t include a plan for a winter cyclone or the true weight of the stress that a natural gas ban would put on the electric grid. It’s a pipe dream. I ask Hochul to come to the table to address the danger our state is facing head-on and to put the lives of New Yorkers ahead of her opportunities to score political points. We need a major departure from this way of thinking and must turn toward an all-of-the-above approach to our state’s energy question, leveraging new innovations in renewable energy while still enabling reliable energy sources that are irreplaceable during an emergency.

I’m proud to lead a letter to Governor Hochul, urging her to address the concerns outlined in the FERC/NERC report and to work with us to implement their recommendations. This letter was signed by House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and Reps. Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11), Mark Molinaro (NY-19), Claudia Tenney (NY-24) and Brandon Williams (NY-22).

We have an opportunity to secure the well-being of our constituents by taking decisive action to fortify our energy infrastructure. Winter Storm Elliot laid bare the vulnerabilities in our natural gas supply and the consequences of political ideologies trumping practical solutions. The safety and resilience of New Yorkers should always be our top priority, transcending party lines and personal agendas.