Jan 18 (Reuters) - New York energy company Consolidated Edison Inc told state regulators this week it will impose a temporary moratorium on new natural gas service in parts of Westchester County due to limited space on existing pipelines.
"Until our efforts align demand with available supply, we will no longer be accepting applications for new natural gas connections in most of our Westchester service area," Con Edison said on its website.
Many consumers using oil want to switch to gas for heat because it is cheaper and cleaner to burn. The average U.S. Northeast household was expected to spend $723 to heat with gas and $1,646 with oil this winter, according to federal estimates.
While Con Edison did not criticize the state for the moratorium, groups seeking more gas infrastructure blamed New York for the shortage.
Con Edison's "action is a direct result of the state's continued blockade on gas infrastructure, which will make it harder ... and more expensive for New Yorkers to heat their homes," said Peter Kauffmann, spokesman for New Yorkers for Affordable Energy, which supports increased access to gas.
State energy regulators, however, disagreed.
"Con Edison's moratorium is the result of a significant recent spike in demand for gas," James Denn, a spokesman for the Department of Public Service, said, noting the company did not propose a pipeline to meet growing demand.
Other energy firms have tried for years to build gas pipes from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to New York, but regulators in Albany have denied some of those projects, like the long-delayed Constitution pipeline, for environmental reasons.
Instead of investing in new gas pipelines, New York has encouraged companies to put more money into energy efficiency and renewable projects.
Although many in the energy industry expect New York's gas demand to rise as homes and power plants burn more of the fuel, the data is not clear.
New York's gas demand peaked around 3.7 billion cubic feet per day on average in 2015 due to a cold winter before declining in 2016 and 2017 during more moderate weather, according to federal energy data going back to 1997. Data for 2018 is not yet available.
The power sector is expected to burn more gas in New York in coming years as the state's remaining coal plants shut and the Indian Point nuclear plant retires.
Some of that power, however, will be replaced by renewables rather than gas-fired power plants.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien