Coalition Criticizes New PSC Plan for Power Lines Proceeding

Coalition Criticizes New PSC Plan for Power Lines Proceeding

i Sep 4th Comments Off by

Contact: Jay Burgess, Scenic Hudson, 845 473 4440, Ext. 222, jburgess@scenichudson.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 4, 2014

Coalition urges citizen action to show continued public opposition, says scheme unfairly burdens Hudson Valley

HUDSON VALLEY—The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, a broad-based coalition of community groups and officials partnered with Scenic Hudson, today signaled major problems with the state’s Department of Public Service staff recommendations concerning proposals for expansion of more than 150 miles of transmission lines. The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition is focused on portions of the proposed lines that would pass through 7 counties and 25 towns in the Hudson Valley, ultimately reaching their destination in Dutchess County.

In official comments submitted yesterday to the Public Service Commission (PSC), members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition criticized the regulatory agency’s proposal for:

  • failing to demonstrate need for the proposed project and failing to call for an independent study of current electricity demand, technological innovations and efficiency efforts such as demand-side management;
  • lacking any consideration of a multitude of current electricity projects that are further along in the regulatory process and likely to answer demand and reliability issues;
  • failing to require projects to conform to existing rights-of-way to minimize environmental and landowner impacts;
  • proposing a lengthy process for project applicants that will leave property owners and businesses suffering economic harm from decreased property values and stifled business opportunities while also providing limited time for groups or citizens to study and comment on proposals moving forward;
  • proposing that consumers—including ratepayers in areas of the Hudson Valley that would be hardest hit by negative impacts from the proposed transmission lines—pay for cost overruns associated with the projects.

Coalition calls for suspension of process until need is proved and alternatives studied

For these reasons the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition called on the PSC to suspend consideration of the transmission project proposals by the four project applicants until the threshold question of need for the project can be answered, as well as analysis of alternative solutions that would meet the state’s energy needs without damaging unique community assets. These potentially threatened assets include scenic beauty, productive farmland, tourism and agricultural economies, municipal tax bases, cultural/historic assets, critical wetlands and wildlife.

Other projects not considered that would provide solutions without new Hudson Valley power lines

The PSC has not considered the many pending transmission and generation projects that would alleviate the same transmission constraints and congestion costs that the proposed power line projects seek to resolve. For example, the following projects have received all necessary regulatory approvals—the Champlain Hudson Power Express, the CPV Valley Energy Center and the Transmission Owner Transmission Solutions projects proposed in the Indian Point Retirement Contingency Plan. The Danskammer generating station also plans to restart operations in the coming months. While the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition does not endorse any of these projects, all could have an impact on transmission congestion in the corridor. While there is no certainty they will all be constructed, these and other projects must be considered before the PSC determines the need for new transmission lines that would damage the Hudson Valley.

Cost structures for projects are greatly unfair to Hudson Valley residents and over-generous to developers

In its recent recommendations, the state’s Department of Public Service has recommended that 90 percent of costs be borne by customers in the Hudson Valley and downstate and 10 percent of costs by upstate customers. Further, it recommended that cost overruns be split 80/20 so that consumers cover the 80-percent share.
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “We’re very disappointed with the latest ill-conceived Department of Public Service staff proposal—which continues to unfairly burden Hudson Valley property owners and ratepayers. The PSC is laying the groundwork for proposals as high as $750 million without demonstrating if the project is necessary. The PSC is continuing to solicit business-as-usual technologies and ignoring less expensive approaches that could spare our region long-term harm. The latest proposal recommends sticking ratepayers in our region with the big-ticket expenses and major exposure on any developer cost over-runs. Worst of all, the PSC is moving to lock our region and state into an outdated approach to electricity for generations to come. Citizens, municipal officials and conservation and preservation groups have been citing these issues all along in the process, and it appears all these concerns have been ignored.”

“This proposal really fails to take into account the governor’s preferred policy preference of no longer, no wider and no higher for new transmission infrastructure. I was especially disappointed to see a recommendation from the PSC’s staff that developers be reimbursed for even their unsuccessful project applications, while farmers, businesspeople and property owners are still required to shoulder all of the loss of income and property value caused by the proceeding,” said Ian Solomon of Farmers and Families for Claverack.

Current transmission line proceedings out of step with governor’s vision for state being an energy leader

The Department of Public Service staff recommendation is out of step with the PSC’s announced intention to create a 21st-century power grid that will enable New Yorkers to better manage and reduce their energy costs while protecting and preserving the environment. The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition supports this goal, but the current PSC transmission proceedings cut against that important effort. While the PSC’s vision for a modern state energy system calls for a substantial transformation of utility practices that would result in energy conservation, locally generated renewable energy sources and consumer choice, the Department of Public Service staff recommendation on the transmission proceeding seeks to lock in and potentially exacerbate the burdens associated with the existing outmoded transmission system.

Coalition launches membership drive and petition to signal rising call for smarter energy solutions

The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition encourages concerned citizens to join those standing up for a better energy future by signing up as members at www.hvsec.org. Members can access information about the coalition’s campaign and will be alerted to opportunities to help move the state toward advancing a modern energy system that fuels community and economic progress and avoids technologies that damage communities and haven’t advanced in nearly a century.

As part of its efforts to promote energy solutions that won’t permanently damage communities, the coalition has created a petition. Launched on Aug. 28, the petition already has generated 2,000 signatures of people who will only support electricity systems that honor the beauty, natural integrity and historical legacy of the Hudson Valley; that reflect state-of-the-art technology and execution and which include greater emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation; and that include a clear cost-benefit analysis and outline a specific independently proven need.

“In addition to the online petition signatures, we have gathered more than 1,500 handwritten signatures from people at farmers’ markets and other events. In just the first two weeks, we are hearing the voice of the Hudson Valley being raised through a petition designed to allow the citizens and friends of all the towns in the Hudson Valley to come together with an aggregated message saying new high-voltage power lines are not welcome,” said Sharon Kotler, founding member of No Monster Power Lines.

About the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition

The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition includes municipal officials; environmental, historic and land preservation organizations; businesses; and residents who oppose outdated power lines and support creation of a modern, comprehensive energy plan for the Hudson Valley and New York State.