Icebox Interrupts Gas Supply, Drives Up Heating Costs

Icebox Interrupts

Natural Gas Supply

At Biggest Employers

NYSEG Forces 4 Oneonta Institutions

To Switch To More Expensive Fuel Oil

By JENNIFER HILL• Special to

Tom Rathbone, SUNY Oneonta’s then-assistant vice president, gives a tour of the campus heating plant in 2016.  (AllOTSEGO file photo)

ONEONTA – With the bitter cold, NYSEG has flagged some of the region’s largest employers to heat with oil instead of natural gas, driving up their heating costs.

“We have been burning oil since Tuesday evening,” SUNY Oneonta’ Chief Facilities Planning & Safety Officer Lachlan Squair said.  “I’m fairly certain other places are doing the same.”

That would mean Fox Hospital and Lutz Feed in Oneonta, and Chenango Memorial Hospital in Norwich, who all have “interruptible power” contracts that require the shift during cold snaps.

Every year on the coldest days, NYSEG shuts off natural gas to the big institutions.   In 2016, it was estimated the contracts had cost SUNY Oneonta a $1/2 million extra over the three previous winters.

“Companies are asked to shut down their gas supply so that residents will have enough gas to heat their homes,” Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky explained in a recent interview. “It is so everyone will have enough heat during the coldest times.”

But having to use oil even for a very short period of time is expensive.  Squair said, “We spend $110,000 to $120,000 every year on heating the campus with oil.”

Over the past six heating seasons, Squair said SUNY has used 420,000 gallons of oil for a total of 53 times, with each interruption period lasting an average of 25 hours.

He sees the problem becoming worse in the future.  “NYSEG is bumping gas more often because it is approaching capacity,” Squair said.

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