In a time when Natural Gas Utilities throughout the northeast are asking state governments to help them extend gas mains and expand natural gas access to more homeowners; they do so with full knowledge that interstate pipelines in place today are inadequate to supply their natural gas needs during cold winter days & nights.  Nearly four (4) days ahead of a forecast cold snap, three natural gas utilities are notifying their “Interruptible Customers” to stop burning natural gas as of a specific day and hour.

Con-Edison put out the following open ended notice today, with a shutoff time of 1:00 AM on Friday January 3rd:

“Con Edison is interrupting Gas Sales and Transportation Notification Customers beginning Friday, January 3, 2014 at 1:00 A.M. until further notice.  As a result of forecasted temperatures, Con Edison will be interrupting all dual fuel notification gas customers on Friday, January 3rd starting at 1 AM.  All Interruptible and Off-Peak Firm Sales and Transportation customers, must switch to an alternate fuel on Friday, January 3rd at 1 AM until FURTHER NOTICE.  This notice is for all Interruptible and Off-Peak Firm notification gas customers whether you purchase gas from a third party supplier or from Con Edison.  Any use of natural gas during this interruption period will be considered Unauthorized Gas and subject to penalties.”

In similar form, National Grid put out the following notice today, but with an earlier shutoff date of Thursday January 2nd at 10:00 AM.  The notice includes a typo stating the year to be 2013 instead of 2014:

“As a valued customer you are receiving the notice as a courtesy of National Grid.  An interruption of natural gas service has been scheduled for all Temperature Controlled, Semi Automatic and Interruptible customers.  This notification is to inform you that you must switch to your alternate fuel no later than Thursday, January 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 AM until Sunday, January 5th, 2013 at 10 AM pending weather forecast.  Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.”

Orange Rockland Utilities, Inc., in a similar notice put out the following open-ended notice with a shutoff date of Friday January 3rd at 10:00 AM:

“GAS INTERRUPTION
Attention: Interruptible Gas Transportation Marketers

Due to forecasted cold temperatures and pursuant to Service Classification No. 8 and No. 9 of its Gas Tariff and its Gas Sales and Transportation Operating Procedures, Orange and Rockland Utilities,Inc.("O&R") is calling for a gas curtailment effective Friday, January 3, 2014 at 10:00 A.M.  During this Gas Curtailment all interruptible gas transportation customers are required to reduce their gas usage to their firm base load amounts only; and all Gas Marketers serving interruptible customers are required to cease gas deliveries to O&R’s city gate effective 10:00 A.M., Friday January 3, 2014.  Failure to comply with this Gas Curtailment will result in the assessment of penalties in accordance with O&R's applicable Gas Tariff provisions and Gas Sales and Transportation Operating Procedures Manual. This gas interruption will remain in effect until otherwise notified in writing by O&R.”

Reacting to this news, Edgar Ang from OPIS, noted in an e-mail earlier today that “Heating oil suppliers have been facing a steady customer attrition due to an ongoing switch to natural gas, but in times of peak demand, natural gas customers are asked to switch back to heating oil as the gas demand overwhelms their supply system.  And if they don’t switch to oil … they’re penalized something like 9 times the tariff rate!!!!”  The lack of sufficient interstate pipeline capacity to move natural gas from production well to consumers in other regions of the country is a reality that needs to be considered by Governors and Legislatures promoting pipeline expansions within their respective states.

 Commenting on Mr. Ang’s statement, John Maniscalco, Chief Executive Officer of the New York Oil Heating Association said today “…talk about draining the harbor, when they trigger on … who has it better than the utilities?  They can’t take care of their own; they rely on oil heat to clean up their mess, and they create price and supply havoc in the harbor to boot!”

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