New U.S. energy secretary slams NY for blocking gas pipelines

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette slammed New York state regulators on Thursday for blocking pipelines that would bring natural gas from Appalachia to New England, but did not specify whether the Trump administration could do anything to push the projects forward.

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“Certain bad actors are trying to slow job creators and decrease the benefits for consumers,” said Brouillette, who succeeds former secretary Rick Perry, a figure in the House of Representatives’ impeachment probe who stepped down amid questions about his role in Ukraine.

Brouillette said the government must deal with what he called threats to energy delivery. “Due to one state’s extremist policies the entire New England region is cut off from receiving cheaper American natural gas,” said Brouilette, who was sworn in by President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Brouillette praised the gas industry which has seen prices pushed toward a 25-year low as it is produced as a byproduct of the shale oil boom. The glut threatens to force energy companies to write off billions of dollars worth of assets.

New York State has blocked the construction of several pipelines that would transport fracked natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to New England, including Williams Cos Inc’s Constitution and Northeast Supply Enhancement and National Fuel Gas Co’s Northern Access.

During an extreme cold spell early last year, a tanker of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, arrived in the Boston Harbor from a sanctioned facility in the Russian Arctic. The Trump administration blamed the need to import this LNG on New York’s policy on the pipelines.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent agency of the Energy Department that oversees pipeline construction, has been battling New York for years on permitting for Northern Access. State regulators have denied that pipeline and others on environmental grounds.

When Perry was secretary, he said New York posed risks to national security by blocking projects but he was unable to stop the state. He warned that extreme weather or cyberattacks could leave Wall Street and hospitals without power.

The Energy Department and Trump have touted U.S. exports of LNG to Europe as an alternative to gas supplies from Russia which has occasionally crimped pipeline shipments of the fuel to Ukraine and Eastern Europe in winter months during pricing disputes.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has said it has a rigorous review process to protect public health and the environment.

Brouillette also said he believed regulations were limiting U.S. energy output. The Trump administration has pursued an “energy dominance” policy of rolling back Obama-era environmental standards and seeking to boost production of oil and gas.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio