Regional Coalition Provided Opportunity to Show Lack of Need for Proposed Power Lines

i May 29th Comments Off by

HVSEC will use upcoming PSC technical conference to demonstrate how unnecessary high-voltage lines would cost communities, consumers

HUDSON VALLEY—The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC), a broad-based collaboration of community groups and officials partnered with Scenic Hudson, is encouraged that the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has scheduled a technical conference in July about proposed high-voltage power lines. Those lines could reach a height of 120 feet and cut through 25 communities in seven Hudson Valley counties. Based on its detailed study that demonstrates no need for the project in terms of electric system reliability, consumer rates, economics or public policy—the HVSEC has been granted an entire day during the two-to-three-day conference to make its case.

In a 39-page comment filing previously submitted to the PSC, the 16 members of the HVSEC highlighted that developers have failed to demonstrate a need for the proposed project and that new information and analysis shows there is no basis for the project. Not only is the project unnecessary, the document argues, it is likely to increase electricity costs, not decrease them.

In addition to the technical conference providing a day for the HVSEC to share expert research and analysis, the event will allow PSC staff and project developers to share information, ask questions and discuss technical aspects of the proposed power lines as well as the PSC’s review of them. The HVSEC expressed gratitude to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman for their initiative in creating the conference.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “Governor Cuomo and PSC Chair Zibelman deserve kudos for their leadership with this technical conference. The HVSEC looks forward to the chance to share strong data showing that there is no need to pursue this hugely expensive project, which threatens the Hudson Valley’s beauty and farmland. This is another opportunity show support for Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, which would upgrade the state’s power capacity through innovation and energy conservation. We should be pursuing a 21st-century energy system for New York that would put our state in the national vanguard while building on, rather than degrading, the beauty and economy of the Hudson Valley.”

“The way the system works, for-profit utilities and developers make the most profit when they can build something new,” said Ian Solomon of Farmers and Families for Claverack. “New York already has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. We need to pump the brakes—this isn’t the time to raise New Yorkers’ utility bills for a project that is unnecessary.”

Town of Milan Councilperson Marion Mathison said, “Our residents have already been negatively impacted by this project and are deeply concerned about the possibility of three or four more years in limbo with lives on hold. They hope that this conference demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s and the PSC’s commitment to superior 21st-century energy solutions that are scientifically proven to be needed and in all ratepayers’ best interests.”

“Proposing, and worse promoting, the archaic method of building and utilizing exposed, vulnerable, property-value-destroying high towers to transmit electricity from far away is the antithesis of a modern, forward-thinking energy highway upgrade,” said Greg Quinn, owner of Walnut Grove Farm. “To forge ahead with this project, ignoring an in-depth, scientific study by a renowned professor of physics that clearly demonstrates the absence of need is unconscionable. To saddle the citizens of New York, and specifically the residents of the Hudson Valley, with a $1.3-billion increase in taxes to pay for a project that’s not needed, using what will soon be obsolete technology, further scarring the landscape, reducing property values and damaging farms will, if it’s approved, undoubtedly end up as a powerfully regrettable decision by New York State government.”

Proposed lines not a good deal if they are not needed

Citing recently released information, the HVSEC pointed out that the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) in its new draft Comprehensive Reliability Plan, issued March 30, determined by its own analysis that new electricity transmission capacity is not necessary for the reliability of New York’s electric system. This is significant because NYISO is the independent entity that operates New York’s bulk electricity grid, administers the state’s electricity markets and provides comprehensive and objective reliability planning for the state’s electric grid. In the report, NYISO considered new electricity resources as well as those returning to operation and reduced its projections for future electricity demand, even at peak loads.

Additionally, new research by Bard College Professor of Environmental Science and Physics Dr. Gidon Eshel has bolstered the findings of his late-2014 report on this subject. The earlier study demonstrated that New York has sufficient transmission and generation capacity to handle future peak demand, even if only half the projects NYISO lists as under development ever get built, and even if the Indian Point Energy Center is taken off line.

Cost for projects would fall unfairly on valley ratepayers

HVSEC again asserted concerns about the project costs, which could exceed $1 billion. The coalition continued its objection to the PSC’s plan that ratepayers would pay all project costs (90 percent paid by Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island ratepayers and 10 percent by upstate ratepayers) as well as 80 percent of cost overruns—while there is no evidence ratepayers statewide would benefit from reduced electricity bills. In fact, it is more likely New Yorkers’ rates would increase.

Coalition seeks modern solutions and a forward-looking state energy plan

The HVSEC is interested in innovative energy systems and supports creation of a modern, comprehensive energy plan for New York State. The HVSEC is concerned about major negative impacts the proposed towering, high-voltage power lines could have and is working to protect communities from these impacts. The proposed project could stretch for 150 miles, and the coalition is focused on portions of the power lines that would pass through a large swath of the Hudson Valley, ultimately reaching their destination in Dutchess County. The coalition asserts that the proposed power lines will impact prime agricultural lands, critical environmental areas and the Hudson River, economic health, scenic beauty, public parks, and cultural and historic sites. The HVSEC believes the project is not needed, is likely to cause a further increase in electricity rates and that no project with a negative benefit-to-cost ratio should move forward.

About the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition

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