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Gov. Hochul clears way for new green power lines in NYC, but locals concerned about lack of details

Gov. Hochul on Monday approved construction of two new power transmission lines that will bring more renewable energy to the city and help fight climate change – but some local residents in the path of the projects are worried they could be in harm’s way.

The first line will carry wind, solar and water-powered electricity from a substation in upstate Delaware County to an energy hub in Astoria, Queens, Hochul said while announcing her support for the developments in a speech at the opening event of NYC Climate Week. The second line will deliver wind and water-powered energy all the way from Quebec, Canada, to another power hub in Astoria, the governor said.

Combined, the lines will funnel 18 million megawatt-hours of green energy to the five boroughs every year, enough to power 2.5 million homes, while preventing 77 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over 15 years, Hochul said.

“We’re bringing extension cords down the state and plugging them into New York,” she said. “This is exciting. This is exciting to power homes and businesses all over.”

But the first transmission line – which would be built jointly by a company called Forward Power and the New York Power Authority, with funding from the state – is not a source of excitement for some residents of the Bronx.

Karen Argenti, the secretary for the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, lamented that a big chunk of the line will be drawn through the borough, which has historically been targeted for construction of major public works projects hazardous to the health of local residents.

“The railroads, the highways, they put everything through here – it’s death by a thousand cuts and no one seems to care,” Argenti said. “People are getting sick from that and we have to just slow this down and make sure that’s not the case again here.”

Argenti said her group is not opposed to building green energy infrastructure, but complained that the companies and state agencies involved have not been forthcoming to calls from advocates for more transparency about the routes of the power lines.

“This is the problem – they didn’t talk to any people in the community and they haven’t provided all the details,” she said.

The projects are still subject to review by the New York Public Service Commission, and power deliveries likely can’t start on either line before 2025 at the earliest.

Hochul’s office also said the projects are being carried out with “best management practices” in mind “to avoid, minimize and mitigate environmental damages, including impacts on sensitive species and habitats.”

In addition to the new transmission lines, Hochul announced Monday she’s upping the ante on the state’s plans for solar energy production.

Under the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is mandated to install six gigawatts of solar energy infrastructure by 2025.

Hochul said the state is making enough headway on that goal that she’s ordering her administration to develop at least 10 gigawatts of solar energy systems by 2030.

“We’re going all in on solar,” she said.

Hochul’s green-energy announcements came as world leaders arrived in the city for this week’s United Nations General Assembly, where the subject of climate threats is expected to be paramount.

Climate researchers are warning that the world has reached the point of no return on global warming, and that it is now up to governments and corporations to do what they can to mitigate the worst effects of it.

President Biden, who has vowed to make the U.S. electricity grid 100% reliant on green energy by 2035, frequently stresses that the burgeoning renewable power sector poses a ripe opportunity for economic growth.

Hochul echoed that sentiment on Monday, saying her expanded solar-energy announcement alone will create 6,000 new jobs. Construction on the new transmission lines, she added, could create another 10,000 jobs.

“With this expansion, we are demonstrating New York state’s commitment to increasing the amount of renewable energy flowing to the electric grid as well as creating more jobs in the solar industry in support of our growing clean energy economy,” she said. “Climate change is a public health issue – we need to fight with everything we’ve got in order to ensure generations to come will be able to thrive.”