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Lansing Gas Compressor Project Stalled

New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) revised their assessment of the need for a compressor project that would boost natural gas delivery reliability in Lansing.  The project had been deemed especially important because the Lansing schools had twice suffered natural gas pressure below the level NYSEG had determined was safe, threatening the school district's ability to heat its buildings in the dead of winter.  The compressors were part of a larger plan to encourage developers to use alternative energy sources such as heat pumps, and to impose a moratorium on new gas customers in the Town and Village of Lansing.  NYSEG's revised minimum pressure evaluation also changes their contention that pressure at the schools was too low, lowering the minimum below the actual low pressure the school campus experienced in January.

"I hope what we're not seeing here is NYSEG trying to walk away from its responsibilities," Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler (Lansing) said Tuesday. "The Public Service Commission asks for two things in it's recent order for a Non-Pipeline Alternative Request for Proposal.  Boost the pressure and end the moratorium.  What we need now is for NYSEG to do what the order says.  I don't see a viable option to accomplish that other than increasing the amount of gas.  I'll be interested to see NYSEG's plan for that, and it shouldn't take another five years."

The company proposed installing compressors to mitigate issues with providing adequate pressure needed to provide usable service, especially to the Lansing schools.  But last month after an upward revision of project costs as well as difficulties in acquiring a location for the machinery, the company revised its assessment of the need for the compressors.

"I can't say that I see how these latest filings have changed anything since we last discussed this issue in mid-July," Tompkins County Legislator Deborah Dawson (Villages of Lansing and Cayuga Heights) said Wednesday. "Obviously, changes in NYSEG's modelling, and experience with peak pressures at the Lansing schools last winter, seem to have convinced the company that the moratorium by itself has solved the reliability problem in Lansing and that the compressors are not necessary to provide reliable service to existing customers.  Since I'm not an engineer, I am in no position to determine if NYSEG's revised modelling is accurate, or if last winter's experience is predictive of next winter's experience."

Monday NYSEG formally requested an extension from the PSC, seeking to postpone construction of the project and reporting.  Tuesday they withdrew the request, submitting a report on time.  But the company said the project is not going forward while they explore other solutions to what they now say is not an issue.

"NYSEG has expended $30 thousand through June 30, 2018 on the project, and the last formal estimate of $5.1 million was provided in the January 31, 2018 report," wrote Joseph J. Syta in Tuesday's report on behalf of NYSEG. "The reason for the significant variance is that the Company has placed the project on hold. As noted in its July 3, 2018 report, this decision was based on its review of the pressure, capacity and growth information during the past heating season. The review concluded that acceptable pressures were maintained throughout the 2017/2018 heating season, and there was no material growth in demand. While the project is on hold, the Company will be continuing to review and analyze non-pipe alternatives sought through an RFP process."

Syta said the company had contacted several property owners, none of whom were interested in locating compressors on their properties, and has "continued discussions with Tompkins County Planning Department officials regarding difficulties with identification and acquisition of sites for compressors."  He included a chart showing that the "minimum acceptable pressure" at the Lansing Terminal is 30psi (as opposed to 118psi at NYSEG's East Ithaca station).  But the actual pressure was 28.61 on January 6th when the temperature ranged between 3 and -2 degrees Fahrenheit, and 28.2psi on January 5th with temperatures between 3 and -1 degrees.  Lansing temperatures.  The schools were able to maintain their heating on those days.  But another chart shows Lansing average natural gas pressure declining in 2018 as compared to the previous two years.

After county officials met with PSC, NYSEG, Con Ed, and New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) representatives July 18th, a meeting to which Sigler was not invited, he wrote to the PSC to advocate for NYSEG to end the moratorium.

"The PSC was very clear in what it was requiring of NYSEG so I can only take away, again if this news story is correct, that the PSC and NYSEG will now revert back to installing a pipeline to deliver natural gas to Lansing," Sigler wrote. "The Town Supervisor and Village of Lansing Mayor and myself would be very anxious to meet with you all to discuss routes the pipeline could take. This project has already been delayed more than five years and put Lansing in what NYSEG described as a dangerous situation."

Sigler also objected to the representatives who did go to Albany, saying they do not represent his constituency.  While Dawson was part of the delegation, Sigler said that left a significant portion of Lansing residents unrepresented.

"I’d like to mention that during the RFP question period, NYSEG was clear that when it referred to 'community', it was referring to people who live in the moratorium area," he charged. "Most of the people, Legislator Robertson, Mr. Schlather, Ms. Weiser, do not. It’s unclear why folks who are not in what NYSEG considers the community, have a larger says than the 8,000 people I represent or the 11,000 that Ed LaVigne, Lansing Town Supervisor represents, all of whom are in the moratorium area."

At the July 18th meeting county representatives were told that NYSEG's RFP to solicit ideas for non-pipeline solutions had not yielded any useful suggestions.  But a representative from Consolidated Edison (serving the New York City area) said that his company's similar RFP had yielded some ideas.  While it is not clear that NYSEG will issue a second RFP, they discussed incorporating some of the Con Ed ideas if a new RFP is sent out.

"If the PSC approves NYSEG's proposal to issue a second round RFP, I would urge NYSEG to draft a more specific document that requests proposals covering a broader area of Tompkins County," Dawson said. "The goal of the RFP should be to generate proposals that would free up enough gas pressure and volume to assure that the Lansing Schools always have enough energy for heating, and to enable NYSEG to lift the moratorium with respect to industrial and commercial users whose needs cannot be met by electricity."

Sigler and Lansing Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne met with PSC officials in April of last year to advocate for the lifting of the Moratorium.  Sigler says he would like to make a return visit.  For his part, at a Village of Lansing Trustees meeting earlier this month LaVigne said the Town will consider all options, stopping short of threatening a lawsuit, but not ruling that option out.

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