Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Tuesday, August 26, 2003


ALBANY—The Business Council today called on the states of New York and Connecticut to drop their opposition to two proposed natural gas pipelines that could fuel more electric generating capacity in New York City and on Long Island, thus reducing the danger of future blackouts.

Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh said that the Aug. 14-15 blackout, which is estimated to have done up to $1 billion in damage to New York's economy, "has demonstrated how vulnerable we are if we fail to upgrade our capacity to produce and distribute electricity."

The two pipeline projects—the proposed Millennium Pipeline running 442 miles from Lake Erie into Westchester County, and the proposed Islander East pipeline running across Long Island Sound from Connecticut into New York—are needed to ensure secure and economical supplies of fuel for current and existing power plants in the downstate region. The downstate region was hardest hit by the blackout, and it is highly vulnerable to future problems because of constraints on transmission into the region and on generation within the region.

Environmental concerns have made natural-gas fired generating stations virtually the only permissible new form of major electric production capacity in New York. At the same time, environmental organizations routinely oppose the development of the natural gas pipelines needed to fuel those plants.

In letters to New York State Secretary of State Randy A. Daniels and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Walsh asked that the two states withdraw objections that are holding up federal approval of the Millennium and Islander East pipelines.

Walsh said the two pipeline projects "are by no means a total solution to our vulnerability, but they are a good start, and they are on the table now."

The causes of the Northeast blackout this month are still not fully understood; early indicators point to problems with the transmission grid in the Midwest. But The Business Council has long contended that New York is vulnerable to blackouts of its own making, unless it upgrades both its generating capacity and its transmission system. More capacity would also strengthen competitive forces that can lower prices.

The Millennium project, sponsored by Columbia Gas Corp. and others, had been cleared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last September. But it has been held up by objections from the Pataki administration, which contends the pipeline is "inconsistent" with the state's Coastal Management Program. The objections were filed by Secretary of State Daniels because the Department of State administers the state's Coastal Management Program.

The Islander East project, sponsored by Duke Energy and others, has been held up by objections from Connecticut that focus on water use permits and that state's own Coastal Management Program.