NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A natural gas moratorium that has left homeowners, businesses and community groups helpless finally has the attention of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
He told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer on Tuesday he’ll personally seek an investigation.
Until now, it has just been an ever-expanding collection of horror stories.
The owner of a Park Slope brownstone had the gas turned off to renovate, but now she can’t get National Grid to turn it back on.
“We have nowhere to go. Our lease is up in a month. We have no more money left. We need to move into our house,” Julie Levin told Kramer.
It’s the same issue for the United Chinese Association in Bensonhurst, where without gas after-school programs will be canceled and 500 seniors won’t be fed.
“The senior citizens, they are angry, too, because they cannot come to our center,” the UCA’s Ansen Tang said. “They cannot have lunch in our center.”
They are among dozens and dozens of homes and businesses told by their power company, National Grid, there is a gas moratorium, which means no more hook-ups, apparently even for preexisting customers, because the company is involved in a power struggle with the state over approval of a new gas pipeline.
Kramer demanded answers from Gov. Cuomo, who was showcasing one of his other public works achievements, opening the second side of the new Kosciuszko Bridge.
“What are you going to do about National Grid, which is withholding gas hook-ups from businesses, from people?” Kramer asked. “Governor, I wonder what you say to people who can’t open their apartments and their homes because they turned off the gas to do renovations and now National Grid won’t let them turn it back on? To a Chinese American society in Bensonhurst that can’t provide meals?”
“If you’re saying that there are current gas clients who are being denied gas, that’s a health and safety violation,” Cuomo said. “No utility company should be doing that.”
When pressed again by Kramer as to what he’s going to do about it, Cuomo said, “The Public Service Commission should … You tell me where and we will have the Public Service Commission investigate.”
When told of the problems in Farmingdale, Bensonhurst and Park Slope, Cuomo said, “I’m not aware of any situation where an existing client couldn’t get gas. My information is that a new applicant can’t get approved for gas, but if they’re not providing an existing customer, I don’t believe they have the legal right to do that.”
After his conversation with Kramer, the governor sent a letter to the state Department of Public Service asking the agency to ensure that National Grid takes immediate steps to help the affected customers.
The governor added if the National Grid can’t help the customers, it could lose its monopoly.
“I direct you to consider alternatives to National Grid as (a) franchisee for some or all of the areas it currently serves,” Cuomo wrote.
Kramer contacted National Grid, which said in a statement it will honor all commitments that were approved before it decided on the gas moratorium. The company spokesman did not address the specific issue of customers who in good faith had the gas turned off to complete renovations and then, without warning, were told they couldn’t get it turned back on.