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Hinchey vows to continue national corridor battle

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of the defeat of a measure that would have prevented the federal government from trumping state governments on the issue of power line siting, Congressman Maurice Hinchey vowed to continue the fight. He said many lawmakers who voted against his measure did not understand it, and he promised to reintroduce similar legislation in the near future.

The measure, which was proposed as an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for 2008, was voted down by 174 to 257 on June 20. It would have prevented the use of federal funds in the creation of National Interest Transmission Electricity Corridors.

An executive of New York Regional Interconnection (NYRI), on the other hand, called the vote a victory. William May, NYRI project manager, said, “New transmission lines, along with conservation and new generation from clean sources, will play a key role in ensuring reliable electricity supplies. We hope this bipartisan vote by the House will encourage states to take actions that will keep our nation’s energy lifeblood flowing.”

Critics have challenged the need for the 200-mile NYRI power line project, which would run through eight counties in New York. The creation of a national corridor would allow the federal agencies to approve the project if state agencies reject it.

The proposed Atlantic Corridor covers nine states and the District of Columbia. Another proposed corridor in the west covers two additional states. While Hinchey, a Democrat, and his co-sponsor Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, a Republican, were unable to persuade their colleagues to support their measure, anti-corridor sentiment has been growing.

Over the past month, the governors of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Virginia have all publicly opposed the national corridors and the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which allowed for their creation.

However, according to NYRI, powerful groups including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Wind Energy Association, support the creation of the national corridors.

Hinchey and Wolf are pushing three separate bills that would block national corridors or hinder their use by power line companies. The first bill would repeal the section of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that authorized the national corridors. The second bill would strip the ability of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to grant federal eminent domain authority to companies for power line projects.

The third bill would restrict the designation of national corridors and ensure that areas that are recognized for their scenic, natural, cultural or historic value are not included as part of any national corridor.

By Fritz Mayer

The River Reporter

28 June 2007