Governor Cuomo: "Give us the alternatives, but don't say to the people of this state, 'Either it's my way or the highway. Either it's my way or I turn off your gas.' I'm not going to allow New Yorkers to be extorted, Kristen. I was Attorney General of this state. My job is to protect consumers, protect the citizens of this state. National Grid's job is to protect its shareholders. I get it, but I'm not going to let the people of New York be bullied and exploited. I'm not going to do that. Not as long as I'm in this seat."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on NY1 with Kristen Shaughnessy to discuss the letter issued to National Grid CEO John Pettigrew and President John Bruckner giving 14 days' notice of New York State's intent to revoke National Grid's certificate to operate its downstate gas franchise.
AUDIO of the interview is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Kristen Shaughnessy: Governor Andrew Cuomo joins us now by the phone. Governor thank you so much for joining us.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you for having me Kristen.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Let's talk first about the National Grid. The National Grid was refusing gas services or hooks ups to businesses and residents in Queens, Brooklyn, and on parts of Long Island as well. There was this fight over the Williams Pipeline which would connect New York to gas reserves in Pennsylvania. You have sent a letter this morning kind of lighting a fire under the executives at the National Grid. Tell us about that.
Governor Cuomo: The bottom line here is National Grid is a franchisee. They are licensed by the stat to provide service to the consumers of the state. What they have said is if they do not get this new pipeline approved, which as you said is a pipeline that goes from Pennsylvania to New York, which means New Jersey has to approve it and it has to be built. If they do not get this new gas pipeline then they cannot provide any new gas service and they enacted what they call a moratorium. And it has disastrous consequences, literally people who had turned off their gas for a short period of time to remodel their home cannot get their gas. There can't be any new development. I do not accept the premise that if there is no pipeline there is no gas. Their job was to provide a plan for future supply. That is one of their essential responsibilities. To say, well, we were hoping to get this pipeline and we really want a pipeline. And even though it could be stopped by other states and it could take a long time to build, that was our only plan. I think that was irresponsible and reckless. And there have to be alternatives to bring gas to New York City and Long Island. You can truck gas, you can barge gas, you can go to alternative energy supplies. So that is their job to do that and if they cannot do their job then we should get someone else.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Now critics are saying that this is a problem that you created by blocking the pipeline. National Grid saying the supply is less than the demand. The demands are exceeding the supply to bring natural gas here to New York. So why reject the pipeline if there is this clear supply problem?
Governor Cuomo: They want a pipeline. They want a 15 year contract to have a pipeline. Why? Because they're in the gas business, so the pipeline would secure their business - that's my opinion. We're moving to renewables - we're doing wind power, solar power, et cetera. They want to stay in the gas business, and what they're basically saying is, "If I don't get my pipeline, I'm turning off the gas." Now, even if we approve the pipeline, by the way, New Jersey has to approve the pipeline, it has to be built, there have to be no lawsuits - so it's very speculative at best. And there have to be alternatives to the pipeline, and then present those alternatives to New Yorkers. Say, "Look, either we build the pipeline, which a lot of environmentalists oppose, or we have to bring in trucks, we have to bring in barges, we have to build a new liquefied natural gas facility." Give us the alternatives, but don't say to the people of this state, "Either it's my way or the highway. Either it's my way or I turn off your gas." I'm not going to allow New Yorkers to be extorted, Kristen. I was Attorney General of this state. My job is to protect consumers, protect the citizens of this state. National Grid's job is to protect its shareholders. I get it, but I'm not going to let the people of New York be bullied and exploited. I'm not going to do that. Not as long as I'm in this seat.
Kristen Shaughnessy: The Public Service Commission regulates utilities like National Grid. Where is the status of that investigation?
Governor Cuomo: That is ongoing, and National Grid and all these utilities - you know they talk about too big to fail in corporations. This is the epitome of it. These utilities believe they have a license granted by God. They don't. They have a license granted by the people of the State of New York. And the people of the State of New York can revoke that license. And that's where we are.
Kristen Shaughnessy: PSC Chairman John Rhodes has that seat until 2021. Are you happy with the job he's doing? Do you want him to stay in that job?
Governor Cuomo: The PSC is conducting an investigation, and I'll let that go on, but my job as governor is to protect the people of New York, and I take that very seriously, and protect the consumers of New York. And I think National Grid has either failed to do its job by planning for future demands or they are playing a game with New Yorkers where they're trying to extort New Yorkers to get their pipeline built and this is not going to be a matter of extortion. Give New Yorkers the choice. We need a pipeline or we do this. But turning off the gas we're not going to allow that to happen. And if they can't come up with a plan to provide future gas supply, we'll find a utility who can. They're not the only utility in the world and a lot of companies would like to have this franchise, so they have 14 days to explain to the people of this state what the alternatives are and there can't be a moratorium. We're not going to stop building until they have it their way. That's not going to happen.
Kristen Shaughnessy: All right. Let's move on to other topics here. You want to add hundreds of transit officers to the subway stations to patrol those. Is that what New Yorkers want?
Governor Cuomo: Of course. You know we need a little common sense in the New York City discussion. What does a human body need? Oxygen or water. But you know, that's not really the choice, right? We need both. We need to be safe. We need public safety. We're a city and nation of laws and they have to be enforced and people need to be safe on the subways. We've invested a lot of money. The performance is getting better through the subway action plan but people have to feel safe. You have assaults on transit workers, you had more assaults over the weekend, you have these viral videos of people being assaulted, robberies are up. People have to be safe. Also, individual rights have to be respected. And that I think is the issue, Kristen. The relationship between the police and the community must be one of mutual respect and trust and that relationship is frayed and that's what's really going on.
Kristen Shaughnessy: What is the timeframe to add those officers and is there going to be additional training that takes place?
Governor Cuomo: Well, we talked about the MTA adding additional officers last year. This is not new. It's just the environment now, you've had these incidents with police and now people are saying we don't need anymore police. We need public safety. What they're really saying is we think the relationship between the police and the community is stressed and frayed. And that is true. And this new police commissioner coming in, that, I think, should be the new police commissioner's top priority, because it's not a choice of 'do you want to be safe?' or 'have more police.' Those of us who are old enough, fortunately or unfortunately, remember when this city was unsafe. And it starts in the subways, Kristen, that's where it starts, that's the canary in the coalmine. And New Yorkers need to be safe. People have to follow laws. If you want to change the law, change the law. But it can't be an individual decision whether or not you like the law and whether or not you're going to follow it. The real issue is the relationship between the police and the community, and that's what has to be fixed here.
Kristen Shaughnessy: We have about two minutes left, so let me get to two other topics. President Trump is in town today, he'll head back to Washington later. Your thoughts?
Governor Cuomo: If the President is in New York, I'd like him to speak to helping New Yorkers. During his administration, he hasn't done anything of note that has helped New York. He passed the SALT tax increase, he raised our taxes when I was lowering them. He hasn't helped us on the Gateway Tunnel, which connects the trains from New York to New Jersey. We needed help on LaGuardia Airport, we need help on the Second Avenue Subway. The President's pique at New York is because he got sued to release his taxes by the Attorney General and by the Manhattan District Attorney - that's what he's upset about. And he's lost both cases in court. That's a matter of law, that's not politics. And I'd like to see the President, rather than speak about his own personal animus, because he's offended that he got sued for not following the law, I'd like to see him actually talk about helping New Yorkers for a change rather than just what he feels.
Kristen Shaughnessy: We have about 10 seconds left, we just need to know your thoughts on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he's filing today in Arkansas. Your thoughts on him running for president.
Governor Cuomo: I've worked with Mike, I like Mike. Democracy - anybody can run and then we'll see what happens. Some people think he's going to win, some people think that he is a destructive force. In the democratic primary, time will tell. Time will tell. Voters will tell. I have no crystal ball.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Governor Cuomo, we appreciate your time.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Kristen.