Opponents of a proposed 190-mile, $1.6 billion power line project in Upstate New York got some fresh ammunition for their fight on Friday.
A new report from the federal Government Accountability Office supports the contention that New York Regional Interconnect’s plan – to run a high-voltage line from the Oneida County town of Marcy south to Orange County – could drive up the cost of power for Upstate residents.
But the report, requested by Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, and released Friday, balanced the negatives by pointing out several potential upsides to the controversial project.
Arcuri, long an opponent of the project, told reporters that the report bolsters arguments against the power line project on several fronts. Arcuri also recognized benefits from the project contained in the 32-page document.
In addition to a potentially higher cost of power, Arcuri said, the GAO concluded that running the transmission line through the region would decrease property values for homeowners in those areas. The proposed line would originate in Marcy and slice through the towns of Brookfield and Hamilton in southeast Madison County.
But the report also highlighted advantages of the NYRI project, including a decrease in power congestion throughout the region and greater reliability of the state’s electrical system. The GAO also concluded that the project could make the market for electricity more competitive, which could result in lower energy costs, especially Downstate.
NYRI spokesman David Kalson called the report balanced.
“The report concluded that a transmission line like NYRI proposes can decrease congestion, improve reliability, lower costs for consumers and increase access to renewable energy sources such as wind.”
The GAO did point out that the NYRI project would take away incentive to generate more power in the New York City area, where the shortages are most acute. That was a concern for Arcuri.
“Everyone knows that the real problem in New York City is the lack of generation capacity,” he said.
Arcuri said that both he and Gov. Eliot Spitzer would not be opposed to running the power line along the state Thruway.
“There are power lines that already run along the Thruway corridor. It would be much easier to bury the cable because there is a wider right of way,” Arcuri said.
He added that recent train derailments in Madison County – one in Canastota last week and another about a year ago in Oneida – make it clear that running the line along a railroad right of way, a part of the NYRI plan, is not the best or safest option for Central New York residents.
The NYRI project route is part of one of two “national interest electric transmission corridors” approved last fall by the Department of Energy. The other corridor is in the Southwest.
The Eastern corridor, which includes all or part of eight states and the District of Columbia, encompasses much of Central New York – including Onondaga, Cayuga, Madison and Oneida counties.
The designation means that within the corridors, developers can appeal state denials of power line projects to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The federal agency could then allow developers to acquire rights of way through eminent domain if it felt the states were being unreasonable.
The GAO started its report in August. The report authors visited sites in New York, Utah and Virginia to collect information.
By Kathy Coffta Sims
2 February 2008
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