Dan Hust | Democrat
NYRI PRESIDENT CHRIS Thompson, left, was on hand at Sullivan West High School on Wednesday night to listen to the public input, as he has done for the five other hearings held to date up and down the proposed corridor. NYRI attorney Len Singer is next to Thompson.
Having their say on NYRI
By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON Wednesday’s twin public hearings in Callicoon and Lake Huntington were the next step in what promises to be a long journey for New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI).
Judging by the comments at both sessions, locals fervently hope that journey will end in defeat.
But NYRI’s ability to erect 10-story-tall towers through Sullivan County actually can’t be curtailed by the state, as the federal government has the power to give NYRI eminent domain potentially making this week’s Public Service Commission (PSC) hearings moot.
It was a fact acknowledged by PSC Project Manager James de Waal Malefyt.
“If denied, the applicant has the option of going to FERC [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission],” he said to a crowd of about 70 inside Sullivan West High School Wednesday evening.
Several other interesting points were made during the informational session which preceded the hearing:
• NYRI seeks to build its 200-mile-long high-voltage transmission lines along existing rights-of-way (ROWs) as much as possible. However, since it cannot build on top of the occupying facilities (i.e., railroads, pipelines and other powerlines), its ROW will parallel (and thus expand) the other ROWs.
• NYRI wants to parallel the Millennium Pipeline’s route through Sullivan County, but Millennium has yet to agree to such a proposition. As an alternate, NYRI has identified the current Marcy South path, which would shift NYRI’s lines into the center of the county, rather than the western and southern portions.
• The PSC, which will start hearing testimony from the involved parties in March, rarely denies an application usually, said Malefyt, because applicants withdraw before getting to that point.
• NYRI is avoiding a route along the New York State Thruway because it would endanger federal funding of the interstate.
• NYRI is currently only planning to bury a portion of the line that would run under the Rio Reservoir. While other areas upstate and downstate may be buried, the entire line will mostly be aboveground, due to technological limitations (though Malefyt was unprepared to give specific reasons why).
• Substations are currently slated to be built at either end of the line in Marcy and Rock Tavern. Transition stations may have to be built wherever the line switches from aboveground to underground.
• NYRI could sell the line after building it, including to foreign interests (and a portion of the company already is of Canadian origin).
The rest of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting was dedicated to public comment. NYS Administrative Law Judges Jeffrey Stockholm and Michelle Phillips the very people who will make a recommendation to the PSC whether to approve or deny NYRI’s plans were there to personally listen.
The comments were universally negative, kicked off by NYS Senator John Bonacic, one of the prime opponents to the line, both locally and in the State Legislature.
“The State of New York has done everything we reasonably can do to make it clear that a project like NYRI is simply not in New York State’s best interests,” he said. “The federal government, on the other hand, has been NYRI’s enablers.”
Speaker after speaker decried NYRI’s plans, saying they would despoil the natural beauty of the area, chase away tourists and residents, and increase energy consumption.
“The easiest way to put energy into the system is not to make more but waste less,” observed Joan Kern of North Branch.
Some, like Kristin Porter of Hortonville, made emotional pleas to avoid ruining the family farm, while others, like Kathleen Walker of Wolf Lake, argued against the alternate route, as well.
No speaker seemed to find any benefit to the project certainly none locally with County Legislator David Sager arguing that it won’t even “satisfy the true energy needs of New York City.” Calling it a “reckless proposal,” he pointed out that even state and power authorities have deemed it unnecessary.
“It boils down to the need basis,” summarized Callicoon resident Michael Chojnicki. “There is not a need for this. ... It’s all about money.”
NYRI President Chris Thompson was there listening to it all, as he has done for the five other hearings held to date up and down the proposed corridor.
“We always want to gain perspectives from people,” he said after the meeting ended, agreeing with Judge Stockholm that these sessions have yielded new ideas.
“Certainly there’s a lot of sensitivity,” he acknowledged. “There are impacts on people.”
He noted, however, that any proposal on any ROW would have “downsides,” and it’s the responsibility of the PSC to determine what tradeoffs are acceptable and what are not.
His only complaint: “I wish some of the politicians would check on their facts,” pointing out that this direct-current (DC) line would not, as some have claimed, lose 25 percent of energy over its distance but less than five percent.
Complete audio and video of each hearing is available at www.dps.state.ny.us/NYRI.htm (make sure to capitalize “NYRI” lest the page fail to load).
Comments continued to be accepted online and through a toll-free phone number: 1-800-335-2120. PSC officials ask that the public include the case number (06-T-0650) to ensure accuracy.