The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

NY Pipeline Decision: Politics Over the Public’s Interests

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 25, 2016

During a speech last week to labor union officials, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked big about the need for big infrastructure in this country. Gov. Cuomo mentioned the building of the Erie Canal in the 1800s, the interstate highway system that was launched in the 1950s and the construction of big bridges. The North America’s Building Trades Unions audience cheered and clapped warmly when Cuomo called for the vision and leadership needed for America to once again build big infrastructure:

“We built this nation into the greatest nation on the globe with our hands and sweat. That was the American way. We were tough, we were gutsy, we were daring, and there was no challenge that we wouldn’t take on, and we built this country and we regained that spirit of energy and positivity and ambition. … We can do these big projects. We did do these big projects … The George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano Bridge, hundreds of miles of subway system under New York, an 80-mile aqueduct built in the 1800s just to get water to New York City. We never said no …”

The next day, Cuomo’s administration said no – to the proposed $683 million Constitution natural gas pipeline.

No to infrastructure – privately financed at that.

No to the construction jobs wanted by the folks who cheered the governor the day before.

No to consumers in New York state, who’d benefit from abundant, clean-burning natural gas, piped into a number of the state’s southern counties from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale.

And some wonder why so many Americans are cynical about politicians.

It’s simple, really. When an elected official uses soaring rhetoric to talk about big dreams, big challenges and the need for big infrastructure investment, then turns around and rejects a needed project on ideological grounds, Americans can’t be blamed for thinking that it’s just politics as usual – and that they’ll be the ones impacted in the end.

North America’s Building Trades Unions, which hosted Cuomo last week, called the Constitution Pipeline decision by his administration a “callous blow to thousands of New York’s skilled craft construction professionals.” The union:

“[T]he rejection of this pipeline will only worsen the outlook for natural gas and electricity pricing in many areas of New York State and New England. Consumers and businesses in certain markets in the Northeast still pay prices that are comparable, if not higher, than the prices experienced prior to the shale revolution, particularly during periods of peak demand. … The men and women of New York’s building and construction trades unions are some of the most highly skilled, trained and safe craft workers found anywhere in the world, and they would have constructed this pipeline with a strict adherence to safety, quality and environmental stewardship. The rejection of the Constitution Pipeline is just another example of a regulatory system that fails to balance and protect all public interests, including and especially those of American workers and energy consumers.”

API’s Marty Durbin, executive director for market development, called the decision an “assault on families and businesses.” Durbin said the rejection will cost New York state thousands of jobs and impact regional energy customers:

“This region needs robust and reliable energy infrastructure built to supply the clean, reliable and affordable natural gas from the nearby Marcellus shale to fuel their communities. Improving energy infrastructure could bring lower electric bills for families and businesses, keep good paying jobs in the region and help protect the environment. Unfortunately for those who have said they want the jobs and economic benefits the Constitution Pipeline represents, the Cuomo administration has placed politics over the interests of workers and consumers.”

Politics over the interests of the public. The Constitution Pipeline received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval nearly a year and a half ago. Yet, it has been on hold, waiting for state officials to grant their approvals, only to see the process hijacked by a politics that would roll back the gains resulting from America’s historic energy revolution.

These include increased energy security, less dependence on imported energy, jobs and economic growth and important progress in reducing carbon emissions. Thanks to increased domestic use of clean-burning natural gas, the United States is leading the world in reducing carbon emissions.

Americans support building energy infrastructure. They support it for the benefits New York’s Southern Tier counties would stand to realize from the Constitution Pipeline: clean and affordable natural gas, construction jobs and economic stimulus.

Unfortunately, the Cuomo administration says no. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.