Richard Haggerty | January 2019

One of the challenges of engaging in legislative and regulatory advocacy on behalf of the real estate industry is dealing with the unexpected curve ball that seems to come out of nowhere. You try swinging at it and the ball floats right underneath your bat. John Jordan writes about such a curve ball on the front page of this edition of Real Estate In-Depththe decision on the part of Con Edison to impose a moratorium on new natural gas service commencing March 15th for central and southern Westchester.

Quite frankly we should have expected this curve ball. Con Ed has been warning policy makers for sometime that an inadequate natural gas pipeline system would impact its ability to meet growing demand. However, the warnings seem to be viewed as Henny Penny saying the sky was falling, and do not seem to have been taken seriously.

The stakes resulting from this moratorium are high. For good or for bad, natural gas is a very popular fuel source. Development projects, which have been in the pipeline for years in the affected area, may be delayed, stymieing economic growth in Westchester County. Homeowners and home purchasers who take for granted the ability to convert from oil to natural gas will be in for an unpleasant surprise if they live in an area affected by the moratorium. Also, while the moratorium currently only affects certain portions of Westchester, it could easily spread to New York City and Long Island.

So, what’s next? How do we deal with this curve ball that may have such a negative impact on the local economy and the real estate market? First, we need to commence a meaningful and urgent conversation with all of the stake holders to determine the quickest path forward for both short-term and long-term solutions to our region’s energy needs.

I understand both the merits and challenges of decommissioning the Indian Point nuclear power plants, as well as the environmental concerns of new gas infrastructure. However, without alternative energy sources in place, what are we accomplishing? There needs to be a comprehensive dialogue about the real challenges we are faced with as opposed to a game of chicken to see who blinks first. In that scenario, everyone loses.

We know what can be accomplished when we work together for common goals that make sense for our region—the new bridge spanning the Hudson River is a perfect example. We need to bring that same commitment and drive to an honest and urgent discussion about our region’s energy needs going forward, and we need to hit that curve ball out of the park.

Richard Haggerty