November 6, 2010
New York

Town considers law against power lines

By Sarah Haase, Times Staff Writer, Watertown Daily Times, 6 November 2010

HENDERSON – Some Henderson Town Council members tried to kick the fight against wind development up a notch Thursday, offering a resolution that would start work on a law to ban transmission lines.

Councilwoman Carol A. Hall offered the resolution.

“This is more or less because we have Galloo Island coming,” she said. “Since they are going to make a decision in January, I wanted to get the ball rolling. I make a motion to introduce and vote on a resolution … to prepare for both public viewing as well as a public hearing” for a local law.

The motion was voted down 3-2, with Ms. Hall and Councilwoman Torre J. Parker-Lane in favor. Supervisor Raymond A. Walker and councilmen Stephen C. Cote and Frank W. Ross opposed.

The proposed law would prevent running pole transmission lines designed to transport wind-generated electricity from Henderson to another location, Ms. Hall said.

“You can pass a law that says that, but the Public Service Commission can override any local law you pass,” said David A. Renzi, town attorney. “When it comes to energy, the Public Service Commission is going to have more latitude. I’m not saying the law is a bad idea; I’m just saying, if you ask me if it’s foolproof, the answer is no, I don’t think so.”

Mr. Renzi said he would look into the effectiveness of a law that would ban transmission lines.

Anne V. Dalton, spokeswoman for the Public Service Commission, said the organization complies with laws in existence.

“We don’t override laws. We follow them very strictly,” she said. “We comply with Article VII, which was adopted by New York State Legislature. Whether or not a state law supersedes a town law, it’s not appropriate for us to answer that question.”

Local municipal attorney Dennis G. Whelpley said the state’s jurisdiction trumps any roadblocks put up at the local level.

“No municipality may overrule that jurisdiction by local law or otherwise,” he said.

The PSC oversees utilities and the state’s wholesale electric grid, and has the authority to decide the most appropriate route for transmission lines. The authority to override local laws is granted in Section 126 of Public Service Law.

Ms. Parker-Lane said the law could act as a stumbling block for companies that want to develop wind energy facilities and transmission lines.

“A stumbling block is better than a wide-open gate,” she said.

The rest of the board did not agree with her, even though the proposed law specifically refers to wind-related lines.

Mr. Cote said creating laws that simply ban development could deter other companies and people who have interest in developing in Henderson.

“I think we are slitting our throat if we make a law like that,” Mr. Cote said. “You might, sometime, come across hydro development or solar development. If we say no power lines to go anywhere, we can’t have that.”

Mr. Walker said he would like more time to review the proposed law and figure out what the PSC has the right to do.

Despite the rejection of the resolution, the council has decided to look further into the potential effectiveness of the proposed law and discuss it again

URL to article: