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Democrat Photo By Ted Waddell

AN ANTI-NYRI group named “SayNO2NYRI” and dressed in red, made its voice heard at the recent public hearing.

Pols, Public Reject NYRI

By Ted Waddell
FERNDALE — It looks like it’s all boiling down to who’s got the biggest gorilla.
A Canadian-based energy company with an office in the state capital that wants to build a 190-mile long high voltage direct current (HVDC) line through Sullivan County, the New York State Public Service Commission, the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or thousands of people who oppose the $1.7 billion project?
On Thursday, August 17, a public hearing was held at the CVI headquarters to discuss the NYRI (New York Regional Interconnect, Inc.) proposal to construct a series of 85-130-foot HVDC towers from the Erie Substation in the Town of Marcy in Oneida County, through parts of Sullivan County down to the Rock Tavern Substation in the Town of Windsor in Orange County.
The HDVC transmission line is designed to be operated with a rated power flow of 1200 MV at a nominal voltage of +/- 400 kV DC.
If NYRI clears the hurdle of NYS PSC Article VII process and all of a series of regulatory approvals, construction could start in 2008, with a projected on-line date for commercial operation in 2011.
If the project gets Article VII approval, it then goes to to the U.S. DOE.

Getting Around The State

But what has a lot of elected officials and local folks up in arms is that as part of the Energy Act of 2005, companies like NYRI can apply for designation as a National Interest Energy Transmission Corridor (NIETC) from FERC if they can't get their way at state and/or DOE level.
Even before filing for NYS Article VII certification, NYRI applied for NIETC status, a move that left a lot of people wondering if the project wasn’t already a done deal with the ‘powers that be’.
The word on the street is that it’s going to come down to who’s got the bigger gorilla, and in the end wind up in federal court.
NYRI is a privately-owned company that says it will take privately-owned property by eminent domain if necessary.
As the approval process grinds forward, the situation may involve a federal agency overriding federal legislation that designated part of the route as part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s (National Park Service) Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1976, legislation that expressly prohibited the construction of large electric transmission lines through the Upper Delaware River corridor.
Strengthening NYRI’s position, the DOE recently issued a report listing the area between NYC and the nation’s capital as “one of the two worst chokepoints” in the country’s system of power grids.
NYRI contends that building their HVDC line would ease that “congestion”, add to local economies and help prevent future blackouts.
During the four-hour long public hearing, NYRI counsel Leonard Singer and representatives Bill May and Robert Malecki, were the only voices heard in favor of the project.

The Pols Speak Out

Headed by NYS Assemblyman Paul D. Tonka, chairman of the Assembly’s Energy Commission, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Assemblywoman Annie Rabbit, the panel heard reams of often repetitive witness testimony opposing the NYRI project.
First up was Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a longtime opponent of the former and current Bush Administration’s energy policy.
“In the last decade and a half, both federal and state policies have moved us further away from a rationally planned, regulated electric system to a so-called free-market-based, deregulated system,” he said, taking a broadside at the EPA of 2005.
“Looking back, it is becoming increasingly clear that if our country continued on the alternative energy path President Carter proposed during the energy crisis in the 1970s, we would have made significant strides over the past decades in diversifying our energy portfolio and may have avoided many of the problems we are encountering today,” he added.
Hinchey addressed the issue of DOI/NPS designation of the Upper Delaware as a component of the national Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
“The river corridor is one of our region’s most important natural resources,” he said. “The corridor’s federal designation under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act recognizes the river valley’s outstanding scenic, recreational, historic, environmental and cultural assets and specifically provides for this corridor’s protection for present and future generations by the National Park Service… the river management plan (RMP), explicitly prohibits construction of electric transmission lines of this size, recognizing them as incompatible with the protection of this corridor.”
According to Hinchey, the NYRI project “would have tremendously negative impacts to the entire region.”
“New York State does need to address the reliability of its electric transmission system, but it needs to be done in an environmentally responsible manner that respects the rights of local communities and property owners and that serves the public interest,” he added. “The NYRI proposal does not meet that standard…”
Several governmental agencies appeared as witnesses before the panel: NYS PSC, a representative of the New York Independent System Operators, Orange County and Sullivan County (led by Chris Cunningham, chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature, along with Heather Brown (Division of Planning), Salvatore B. Indelicato (Supervisor, Town of Cochecton) and John LiGreci (supervisor, Town of Lumberland).
Speaking on behalf of the Communities Against Regional Interconnect (CARI), of which he serves as chairman, Cunningham said the organization, representing “eight counties and 1.1 million New Yonkers,” is concerned about “the detrimental environmental impacts this proposed route would have on our communities.”
“As currently planned, the proposed transmission line is set to cross 154 streams or rivers, 155 mapped wetlands, 65 miles of farmland and some of the most beautiful lands in the state,” he said, while noting that in Sullivan County 34, streams (including 22 DEC-listed trout streams) and several wildlife habitats would be affected by the NYRI lines.

The People Speak Out

Pat Carullo, director of the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition (UDPC), a grassroots organization that successfully beat back The Pegasus Project (a Canadian-based company that proposed building a power line system down the Delaware River a couple of years ago, and a company that reportedly morphed into NYRI), said, “The people have risen. The system is broken, and as Congressman Hinchey said, corrupt.
“We will not allow this project to take place here,” he added. “They (NYRI) are a shell corporation in Albany… send them back to Canada. We are ready to take to the streets!”
As part of the second community group to get its say at the public hearing, UDPC secretary Marcia Nehemiah, said, “It is clear that NYRI does not wish to present the true and full information that they know will show such overwhelming adverse environmental consequences that no one in their right mind would ever approve this permit application.”
“We must do everything in our power to assure that this ill conceived proposal is defeated”, she added.
While a cadre of red-shorted members of SayNO2NYRI, the latest hometown group to form in opposition to NYRI listened to witnesses, Joey Fortuna of had his turn at the microphone.
“This is a public hearing, and yet the people from NYRI, notorious already for their habitual skewing of the facts, are not being held accountable for what they say,” he said.
“So we ask for a venue of this type at which all of those present are held accountable for what they say by being asked to provide sworn testimony. Tonight, the people from NYRI are held accountable for nothing except what makes its way into the press.”

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