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News BDC Statement on PSC National Fuel Decision
Building Decarbonization Coalition Natural Gas Fuel New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2023

BUILDING DECARBONIZATION COALITION RESPONDS TO THE NEW YORK PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION’S DECISION ON NATIONAL FUEL’S LONG-TERM PLAN

ALBANY, N.Y. – The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order on December 14, 2023, declining to approve the 20-year long-term gas system plan proposed by National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation of Western New York (National Fuel).

The PSC’s order comes days after the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued an order that rejected recommendations from gas utilities to use customer investments to develop “renewable” natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen to achieve Massachusetts’ climate goals, and instead called for a significant increase in the use of electrified and decarbonized heating technologies, including clean neighborhood-scale decarbonization solutions such as Thermal Energy Networks.

Under National Fuel’s proposed plan, the utility would continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on its costly pipeline replacement program. The plan would also have National Fuel pursue unproven strategies to heat homes and buildings using a blend of “renewable” natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen. RNG is costly to produce and its feedstocks are limited. Hydrogen is very volatile and existing pipeline materials and appliances can only safely accommodate it at low-blend concentrations. As the Building Decarbonization Coalition’s The Future of Gas in New York State report explains, attempting to maintain New York’s gas networks at scale to deliver these fuels will increase ratepayer costs, leading to declining consumption and the start of a negative feedback loop of ratepayer exits from which gas utilities cannot recover, causing New Yorkers’ energy bills to skyrocket.

The PSC’s order requires National Fuel to make a number of modifications to its long-term plan, including ending proactive gas main expansion in the utility’s service territory, developing plans for a pilot project to test cold climate heat pumps, and pursuing non-pipeline alternatives to gas system expansion.

In response, Malak Nassereddine, New York senior manager for utility and regulatory policy at the Building Decarbonization Coalition, gave the following statement:

“The Public Service Commission’s order contains several much-needed modifications to National Fuel’s highly concerning long-term plan. However, the PSC stopped short of rejecting the plan and has not adequately addressed several of its flaws, including the plan’s problematic reliance on ‘renewable’ natural gas and hydrogen. The decision also sets a dangerous precedent for other utility companies in their gas planning process. With neighboring utility regulators in Massachusetts having just released a groundbreaking ruling to rein in gas utility spending and slam the door shut on risky, expensive ‘alternative fuels,’ we need the PSC to act with greater urgency as we strive to achieve an affordable, equitable transition to clean energy and pollution-free homes for the millions of New Yorkers currently on the gas system.”

ABOUT THE BUILDING DECARBONIZATION COALITION
The Building Decarbonization Coalition (BDC) unites stakeholders on a path to transform the nation’s buildings through clean energy, using policy, research, market development and public engagement. The BDC and its members are charting the course to eliminate fossil fuels in buildings to improve people’s health, cut climate and air pollution, prioritize high-road jobs, and ensure that our communities are more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Learn more at www.buildingdecarb.org