The long-term winter forecast for New York and New England keeps getting colder.
It might get dark in spots, too. It certainly will get more expensive.
More and more, people there are relying on natural gas to keep their homes warm and to keep the lights on as power plants switch over from coal and nuclear plants close from Vermont to the Empire State. Demand for the fuel is forecast to keep growing.
But the chance of meeting all that demand in Northeast states became less certain over the past few weeks.
One major pipeline set to deliver gas across New England was shelved by its proposed operator, Kinder Morgan. Another project meant to link New York customers to Marcellus shale producers — the Constitution Pipeline — encountered a major stumbling block thrown up by that state’s environmental regulators.
It’s hard to predict whether the Constitution line or a competitor to the Kinder Morgan project will eventually get built.
What’s certain, though, is those hoping for easier access to the huge quantities of cheap gas coming from the Marcellus — just miles from the New York line — will have to wait. And those power plants and utilities will have to find alternative and more costly supply lines to keep fires burning and lights flickering.
“This was our big chance to pay lower energy costs, like everybody else,” Anthony Buxton of the Coalition to Lower Energy Costs told the Boston Globe when Kinder Morgan canceled its long-planned Northeast Energy Direct project in mid-April.
New Englanders pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and gas prices often spike there in winter when demand surges and supplies dwindle. An extension of Kinder Morgan’s existing Tennessee line across the top of Massachusetts and into New Hampshire would have helped ease that.
Opponents of the pipeline said utilities can get extra gas when it’s needed from imports. Despite overflowing supplies in Appalachia, a terminal south of Boston continues to take in more expensive liquefied natural gas from overseas.
In New York, alternative sources of gas might be more scarce, especially since Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned the use of fracking to explore shale. His Department of Environmental Conservation on April 22 denied environmental permits needed to build the Constitution Pipeline from northeast Pennsylvania to his state.
The companies that want to build the line say they are considering an appeal to federal court.
It’s hard to tell how many cold winters such a case would take.