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Hudson River energy line from Quebec offers N.Y. clean power; foes say it takes jobs

A proposed transmission cable carrying electricity from Canada and buried beneath the Hudson River is almost the perfect metaphor to describe the line that’s been drawn, well, in the riverbed.

On one side are several environmental groups supporting the effort. On the other are power companies, including Entergy Nuclear and Consolidated Edison, who decry the cable as a 333-mile-long international extension cord that will kill jobs, push up utility costs and not solve the state’s power problems – claims echoed by some state senators who want to stop the project.

At the center is Transmission Developers Inc., a company backed by the private-equity Blackstone Group behind the Champlain Hudson Power Express. It takes its name from the two major waterways beneath which it will be entombed.

What remains to be decided is whether the plan to stretch two 5-inch-diameter lines from Quebec to Queens becomes reality, what it means for life in the river and what effects, if any, it has on the Indian Point nuclear plant’s future. Joshua Verleun, a chief investigator and staff attorney at Riverkeeper, said the plan is “one possible solution to energy solutions in the state in general.”

“This project would fit in with a better energy future of New York,” Verleun said. “It’s a great project that would bring some potential energy replacement for Indian Point.”

The environmental group is among those who have called for shutting Indian Point, arguing the plant harms river life and is too dangerous to operate in a densely populated area.

The nuclear plant produces about 2,000 megawatts of electricity; the proposed line would carry about half that.

The line came up at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission public hearing this month about Indian Point’s 2011 safety assessment.

The cable would carry Canadian water and wind power.

“They’re talking about bringing the power lines down from Canada. To me, that’s just like getting foreign oil. We’re going to be held hostage by another country,” Frank Ippoliti, recording secretary of Millwright Local 740, told commission representatives inside a Tarrytown hotel ballroom.

Outside the ballroom, some called the project a drag on the local economy.

Arthur “Jerry” Kremer, chairman of local industry group New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, reiterated that thought last week.

“If you build new plants anywhere around New York, they would generate jobs. This doesn’t amount to any real jobs,” he said.

But Donald Jessome, president of Albany-based Transmission Developers, said construction would generate about 300 full-time jobs and that electricity-bill savings would lead to 2,400 new jobs in many fields.

The project would reduce electricity rates for mostly New York City residents by $650 million a year, he said.

He said he expects the needed federal and state permits for the $2 billion project to be granted by the spring.

Jessome said the new line would rely mostly on Hydro-Quebec, which already sells power across the border.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian utility said it sold 26.7 million megawatts of electricity to external markets last year, including New York. A megawatt is enough power for about 800 to 1,000 homes.

Power grid congestion in the state hampers producers from getting electricity to where it’s needed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sought to address the problem through his Energy Highway Task Force. Jessome sees his project as one that could alleviate that bottlenecking; opponents, like Entergy, which owns Indian Point, disagree.

“If the thrust is grid reliability improvements, this is not the way to get there,” Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said.

The transmission line would be buried up to 6 feet deep in a trench not much wider than the side-by-side cables.