The Public Service Commission last week unanimously approved NYSEG's compressor proposal and ordered the prompt issuance of a request for proposals to address area energy and economic development needs as an alternative to the Lansing/Freeville Reinforcement Gas Pipeline Project, also known as the West Dryden Road natural gas pipeline.

"Tompkins County applauds last week's decision by the Public Service Commission, and the willingness of the Commission and NYSEG to work with our community to find new ways to address old problems. NYSEG's solution allows us to address critical safety and reliability concerns without expanding our carbon footprint," said Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson. "We look forward to seeing the innovative solutions that are proposed in the request for proposals to support economic development while cutting our use of fossil fuels."

NYSEG's compressor solution involves placement of four pressure boosters at strategic locations along NYSEG's existing gas distribution system in and around the Village of Lansing to ensure operating pressure in the Lansing service area stays at safe operating levels during very cold, high-heating-demand days. The pressure boosters are expected to be installed in time for the 2018-19 heating season.

In September, the Tompkins County Legislature voted unanimously to support NYSEG's compressor proposal so that safety and reliability concerns could be addressed as quickly as possible. Similarly, Tompkins County Area Development, the area's business development agency, sent a letter to the PSC indicating their support, and encouraging a swift process in order to support business development and job creation in the region.

"Tompkins County has already seen significant local development without gas – using energy-efficient air and ground-source heat-pumps in applications from single-family homes to large scale housing and commercial projects," Robertson continued. " NYSEG's request for proposals will enable our community to innovate even further."

Several municipalities, including the City of Ithaca and towns of Ithaca, Caroline and Dryden are currently researching policies to encourage new development using heat-pumps instead of fossil-fuels such as natural gas or propane to meet their project's heating and hot-water needs.

NYSEG had tried since 2014 to install a pipeline along West Dryden Road, but met with significant community resistance from homeowners who didn't want a pipeline in their front yard and from people across the county who are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Thousands of people contacted the PSC opposing the pipeline and several hundred community members wrote in support of NYSEG's compressor proposal.

"Our decision is based, in part, upon New York's climate goals along with the significant public input we received from the local community keen to protect the environment and reduce the community's greenhouse gas emissions," said Public Service Commission Chair John B. Rhodes, in a prepared statement. "With the environment in mind, this pilot project is intended to boost the gas distribution system's ability to maintain reliable supply without the need to build a new gas pipeline."

"The PSC's ruling supporting a non-pipe alternative signals the State's growing recognition that investing in costly natural gas infrastructure – whether a home-furnace, a pipeline or power-plant – is a poor investment that commits us to burning climate-damaging fossil fuels for the next 20 - 40 years," said Irene Weiser, Councilmember in the Town of Caroline and coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins. "The PSC's decision is an important step on the path to replacing natural gas with renewable heating solutions and reaching the goals of the Governor's State Energy Plan."

"This decision will be remembered as marking the end of fossil fuel expansion in Tompkins County, and the beginning of statewide enlightenment: government, utilities, and citizens can collaborate on meeting our necessary energy transformation goals." said Anthony Ingraffea, Ph.D., P.E., Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus and Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University, whose recent work has focused on meeting the goals of the State's Energy Plan. "We thank the PSC, the Department of Public Service staff, and NYSEG for their vision to use small pressure boosters, rather than increasing gas supply, as an integral part of Tompkins County's energy transition goals."