Though it’s been a few years, the memories of the battle against the NYRI power line still are fresh.
And as representatives from utility companies, the energy industry and the banks that fund them convene to discuss the future of the state’s power grid, local officials and residents who fought NYRI say they are hopeful their plans won’t hurt local communities.
“We will continue to keep an eye on it,” said state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome. “While NYRI types can exist again, I don’t see a revival of NYRI, and the governor’s people are aware of the concerns of communities.”
Marcy is a hub on the state’s energy network, with lines from the north and west bringing power into its switching station. The need for more capacity to bring that power to New York City’s hungry markets has long been discussed – and that’s what attracted NYRI and its private investors.
Still, it’s anyone’s guess what proposals will come out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Energy Highway project.
About 300 representatives from energy utilities, private-sector energy companies, financial institutions and environmental organizations attended a forum Thursday to learn how to participate in Cuomo’s plan.
The deadline for their proposals to improve the state’s aging grid is May 30, and the state Energy Highway Task Force will release a summary of the
ideas sometime after that, New York Power Authority spokeswoman Commie M. Cullen said.
This summer, the task force will present its action plan, she said.
Faith in the state
Mike Steiger, of Cassville, a resident who helped lead the fight against NYRI, said he is putting his faith in the fact that this time the state and not the private sector is pushing the process forward.
“I have a feeling it may be handled better,” Steiger said. “I believe the state will be more considerate than the corporations, and it will be a lot easier to get the state to listen to us than it was with an independent corporation.”
In 2006, NYRI officials conducted a public meeting to inform residents of their project and caused such ire that the entire audience of more than 100 people swept out of the room at the North Utica Community Center in indignation.
The private company continued to move forward, however, with plans for its $1 billion line, which would have cut a swath through numerous local communities as it headed from Marcy to Orange County.
The proposal failed because of a federal ruling on transmission financing in the midst of the line’s review by the state Public Service Commission.
Griffo is on the Senate Energy Committee, and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, is on the Assembly’s version of the committee.
Both said they would work to ensure that local interests are protected.
“I would ensure that dangerous power lines are not placed in our community,” Brindisi said.
Both also pointed to the possibility of improving existing lines so they could carry more energy, rather than building new ones.
Officials from the entity that monitors the state’s power grid said that could be a way to address the problem.
“Our transmission infrastructure is aging, and New York has an opportunity to address these congestion points by expanding capacity on existing transmission lines serving those areas, rather than just replacing them,” said David Flanagan, a spokesman for the New York Independent System Operator.
He also said that his agency would be reviewing the ideas submitted to the Energy Highway Task Force to see what benefits they might offer.
Beefing up the state’s power infrastructure could benefit wind production, a professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School said.
“This is important to upstate, because it creates a demand for wind power,” said Professor David Popp, an economist who studies energy issues. “The best places for wind farms tend not to be in population centers.”
Popp said it’s unlikely that any new power generation plants would be proposed upstate. Any of those likely would be planned for downstate, closer to where the need is, he said.