STAY TUNED—There will still be opportunities for you to advocate and make a difference

STAY TUNED—There will still be opportunities for you to advocate and make a difference

i Jan 29th Comments Off by

Member organizations of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and the public participated for two years in a public process the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) conducted as it considered the need for new high-voltage transmission lines that would cut through a major swath of the Hudson Valley.

Important victories and the need to solidify gains

The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and citizens who joined its campaign won a commitment that the project will be built within existing rights of way and not cross the Hudson River and its sensitive ecosystem. The chosen project route also will not destroy world-class views and natural surroundings at historic sites and destinations such as the Olana State Historic Site, FDR Home and Library, and Omega Institute. Using independent science and economic research, the coalition achieved modifications in the project and its route that will reduce potential damage to a host of community resources.

Despite evidence that the $1.2-billion, rate-payer-financed initiative is unnecessary, unfair to ratepayers and predicted to increase pollution—on Dec. 17, 2015, the PSC announced it would move ahead with the project.

Member organizations of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition will continue to play a role in the process as it moves forward to ensure the gains made are implemented and to push for the most environmentally sound energy system for the state. We will press for projects that will minimize negative impacts to communities, property owners and natural resources.

Action during 2016

During the next year New York State entities will require the competing power lines developers to submit refined proposals that comply with parameters—shaped by hard-won concessions brought about by the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and citizens—the PSC outlined in its decision.

STAY TUNED—A role for concerned citizens

What can concerned citizens do now? Be assured that the legal team of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition will stay engaged on this issue and alert you when it’s time again for citizens to get involved. To stay informed, be sure to sign up for email updates and, from time to time, visit this website and our Facebook page. We’ll keep you in the loop and let you know when the moment is right to mobilize once more.

PSC Allows High-Voltage Power Lines to Proceed Despite Project’s Failure to Meet Tests of Need, Fairness and Emissions Reduction

i Dec 17th Comments Off by

Coalition says it made project better but that transmission lines still pose threats to regional environment and economy

HUDSON VALLEY—The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) expressed disappointment with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) decision today to move ahead with a major, high-voltage power line project through the Hudson Valley. The decision, the coalition says, ignores ample evidence that the $1.2-billion, ratepayer-financed initiative is unnecessary, unfair to ratepayers and predicted to increase pollution. The decision also ignores thousands of public comments and expert reports undercutting the expressed rationale for the project—lowering peak-period electricity prices downstate and in New York City. Additionally, the proceedings have been rife with procedural flaws. The coalition said it still awaits a written order from the PSC to make the decision official.

The HVSEC thanked citizens whose advocacy with the coalition during the two-year proceeding led to modifications of the project and route that reduce its potential damage to historic and cultural assets, community resources and scenic beauty. The group said its member organizations would continue to question the reasoning for this project and pursue a more modern, efficient and sustainable plan to meet the state’s energy needs.

The HVSEC reiterated its well-documented position, based on independent scientific and economic research, that there is no need for the high-voltage power lines. The coalition also disputed the PSC staff position that public policies could justify the $1.2-billion project. Further, the HVSEC cited studies commissioned by the PSC itself that found that energy conservation projects consistent with the agency’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding would provide more cost-effective benefits to the state and ratepayers, with dramatically reduced pollution levels compared to the proposed transmission lines.

The HVSEC and citizens who joined its campaign produced compelling scientific and technical findings that led the PSC to transform its regulatory framework for the project. One early success was persuading the agency to incorporate Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s preference for lines within existing, rather than new, rights-of-way. Expert reports commissioned by the HVSEC on the project’s negative visual and environmental impacts led the PSC to eliminate design options that posed more serious threats. However, these gains do not offset the public disappointment and bewilderment about the PSC’s decision to endorse the project in the absence of a demonstrated need and despite egregious procedural flaws.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “Scenic Hudson is disappointed the PSC has decided to move ahead with this project despite its failure to meet tests of need, fairness and emissions reduction. I commend the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition and the citizens who have supported our professional intervention in this proceeding. Together we persuaded the PSC to improve the project and to confine the transmission line route to existing, rather than new, utility rights-of-way.”

Ian Solomon of Farmers and Families for Claverack said, “Today’s decision is a real disappointment for Hudson Valley residents, farms and businesses. We feel strongly that the wrong decision has been made, as all hard evidence shows the net impact will be detrimental to ratepayers, property owners and the environment. It remains to be seen exactly what shape the process will take from here, but we’re grateful for the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition’s efforts and all the citizens who weighed in over the past several years and urged the state to do the right thing. These have resulted in some important redesigns of the route and proposed towers, which will be less harmful than some of the original proposals. We will continue to pursue opportunities for engagement in this ongoing process as it unfolds.”

Omega Institute CEO Skip Backus said, “Omega is disheartened to see this level of resource diverted away from the innovative energy future that we desperately need to embrace. We are grateful for all the time that so many organizations, citizens and local officials have invested over the last couple of years to help inform this process and to mitigate damaging parts of it. We look forward to an ongoing level of organization across communities as we continue to push for the highest energy vision possible for our region.”

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. More information available at www.hvsec.org.

Watch. Share. Call Gov. Cuomo at 518 474 8390.

i Dec 9th Comments Off by

We need your help. Please WATCH this six-minute video by filmmaker Jon Bowermaster (more…)

WAMC Northeast Public Radio Interview Highlights HVSEC Campaign

i Dec 4th Comments Off by

On Thursday afternoon, Dec. 3, Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan did an hour-long interview with WAMC/Northeast Public Radio’s Dr. Alan Chartock, president and founder of one of the nation’s leading public radio groups.

Ned spoke about how the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition has provided clear evidence that this massive high-voltage transmission lines project that would cut a swath through the heart of the Hudson Valley should be terminated for lack of need. Even so, Ned explained, the state’s Public Service Commission seems determined to move forward with the $1.2-billion project, which is being pushed by utility developers who would make 12-percent returns on investment while ratepayers would pick up the tab. An alternative initiative of the governor’s dubbed Reforming the Energy Vision is the way to go—encouraging newer technologies and efficiencies.

Hear the interview online at this link.

New Filings with PSC Show Power Lines Project is More Expensive, Less Effective and More Polluting

i Nov 17th Comments Off by

PSC’s own consultant predicts increased pollution and electricity prices if proposed power lines are built

HUDSON VALLEY—Members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) filed comments with the PSC on Nov. 6 reinforcing the finding that there is no need—or public policy justification—for any of the proposed high-voltage power lines projects currently being reviewed by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). The comments disputed a position recently taken by PSC staff that public policy benefits could justify the ratepayer financed $1.2-billion transmission lines initiative, which calls for towers up to 120-feet tall running through 25 communities in seven Hudson Valley counties. The HVSEC member comments also pointed out that according to studies commissioned by the PSC itself, New York’s recently created Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative held the possibility of providing cost-effective benefits to the state—and with dramatically reduced pollution levels compared to the proposed transmission lines.

Smart energy to enhance the region

The HVSEC supports the cost-effective aspects of the REV plan because it would make New York a national leader in embracing 21st-century technology and energy-saving strategies, reducing costs for electric energy users in New York. REV would increase consumer choices and make the state’s electric supply chain more resistant to future weather disasters and terrorism. This approach to reforming energy delivery in the state, championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would encourage development of smaller-sized energy resources closer to customers. In the Hudson Valley this would mean enhancing electricity service without adversely impacting the natural resources, prime farmland and other community assets that define the region’s quality of life and fuel economic opportunity.

PSC staff-recommended transmission project falls short of producing benefits NYS electric customers need

The trial staff of the PSC issued a report on Sept. 22 recommending that the PSC rule that there is a need for new transmission projects based on a laundry list of supposed “public policy benefits,” and that a project route consisting of new, potentially taller towers through prime agricultural land in Rensselaer, Columbia and Dutchess counties should be selected from among 22 transmission alternatives. The Brattle Group, a consulting firm, was hired by the PSC to perform a cost-benefit analysis of all of the proposed transmission projects. The Brattle analysis clearly demonstrates that the proposed transmission projects will add costs, while the benefits are questionable.

The Brattle Report found that a REV alternative presents benefits that would simply accrue from energy efficiency and conservation measures, providing benefit-to-cost ratios far superior to those produced by new transmission. Brattle also showed that the REV alternative held the potential to significantly reduce customer costs.

PSC consultant indicates power lines would spike pollution as coal-fired generation is ramped up

The PSC has repeatedly stated that one of the primary goals of the proposed transmission projects is to reduce emissions. However, the Brattle Report shows clearly that REV has significantly more environmental benefits and far fewer environmental impacts than any of the proposed transmission projects. Incredibly, the project recommended by PSC staff would result in increases in statewide emissions of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides and a miniscule decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. The Brattle Report states that the emissions impacts would be primarily due to an expected increase in generation from coal-fired plants that would be enabled by the new transmission infrastructure. REV, on the other hand, would reduce the same emissions. The transmission solution is therefore in complete conflict with New York’s energy goals and policies. Brattle also acknowledges that the transmission projects are not expected to help in connecting existing wind energy in upstate New York, nor will the lines increase penetration of renewable energy resources upstate.

The PSC has stated that the proposed transmission projects would act as a complement to REV, because REV initiatives will require a long-distance AC transmission system. The HVSEC agrees that the existing AC transmission system will still be required as REV is implemented over the next several years. However, the HVSEC is not opposed to maintaining the existing transmission in good condition. It is the unnecessary building of significant additional transmission capacity that is at issue in the PSC proceeding, and there has been no demonstration that REV will require greater transmission capacity than already exists. In fact, one of the things REV is designed to do is lower the demand for new transmission capacity.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “Why are these flawed transmission proposals still being considered? With his Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, Governor Cuomo has a path to putting New York in a leadership position on energy and the environment. REV would cut carbon emissions by creating a resilient power grid that rewards consumers—and utilities—for conserving electricity and switching to renewable sources, including solar and wind. Ironically, the PSC appears poised to move forward with new high-voltage transmission lines despite the overwhelming evidence they aren’t needed, would damage our environment and communities, and cost consumers more. Why is the PSC committed to business as usual by green-lighting construction of this outdated technology?”

Ian Solomon of Farmers and Families for Claverack stated, “Here we have clear data, presented by the PSC’s consultants themselves, that demonstrate the transmission proposal is inferior in literally every way to the REV solution. Additionally, the REV solution is in keeping with the direction the state has planned for the future of the grid, which is forward-looking and better for consumers. It is therefore staggering that, while releasing this report, the PSC staff simultaneously recommended we move forward with the transmission solution. The era of huge transmission buildout at the consumer’s expense is over, and the ratepayers can’t afford another high-priced giveaway to transmission developers.”

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. More information available at www.hvsec.org.

YOUR ACTION NOW IS CRITICAL: Experts have Proven Project Not Needed, Threats Significant But NYS Poised to OK Project Anyway

i Oct 6th Comments Off by

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) need to hear from you right away. Tell them there is no need for a project that would cost ratepayers $1.2 billion and damage the Hudson Valley’s beauty, environment, farms and more.

Call Gov. Cuomo at 518 474 8390. Contact the PSC at this link.

The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) includes municipalities; 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. HVSEC members are especially concerned about the potential negative impacts on the environmental, visual, historic, cultural and economic resources of the Hudson Valley from proposed projects, driven by Gov. Cuomo’s 2012 Energy Highway initiative, to erect higher overhead transmission lines bisecting 25 communities in seven counties.

The HVSEC contends that the state has yet to demonstrate a compelling need for the lines since the beginning of the proceeding. Independent experts agree with our assessment and have published reports that
support this position. Recently, the PSC’s staff issued a recommendation that the PSC use a procedural move that would allow them to proceed without an actual demonstration of need as they once defined it, changing instead to a vague “public policy” rationale that contradicts other strong, established state policies. To make matters worse, the staff recommendation calls for eliminating the proposals that the HVSEC and PSC had determined would have the lowest impacts to communities and key resources.

Is this project needed to increase system reliability? NO!

  • The most recent Comprehensive Reliability Plan, released in July 2015 by the New York Independent System Operator (which oversees the state’s electric grid), concluded that “New York’s power system has adequate resources to reliably meet New York’s electric demand over the next 10 years under expected system conditions.”
  • The NYISO is so confident about this forecast that it withdrew its request for proposals for new projects to meet reliability criteria, indicating the system has sufficient existing facilities.
  • A report by Dr. Gidon Eshel, a research professor of Environmental Physics at Bard College, that analyzed future downstate peak loads and additional factors that could affect energy demand (including climate change and demographic trends) concluded that current and anticipated power-generating assets in the region will meet peak demand for the next two decades.

Is this project needed to provide economic benefits? NO!

A major goal of the Energy Highway is to reduce electricity costs in New York City and the surrounding Metropolitan Area by increasing transmission capacity to relieve a “a bottleneck” that makes it expensive to carry power from central New York to downstate customers.

  • Congestion costs—the price of meeting consumers’ needs based on available electricity—have been decreasing for the last five years.
  • A recent report Scenic Hudson and the HVSEC commissioned from London Economics International, LLC (LEI), a global strategic advisory firm specializing in energy, forecasted that annual congestion costs will decline an additional 70-85 percent by 2030 as compared with 2016-2017 levels. And the majority of the cost decline will occur by 2021.
  • High downstate energy prices also are the result of a New Capacity Zone (NCZ), which pays generators to invest in power plants within the Hudson Valley. Funds come from a raise in wholesale prices (known as capacity pricing).
  • Based on new generation attracted by the NCZ, LEI concluded that currently high capacity prices will drop significantly when this generation goes on-line in 2018.

The bottom line: Annual expenses to operate and maintain the proposed transmission lines would very likely be higher than savings they generate. With ratepayers covering 100 percent of project costs—Hudson Valley and downstate ratepayers paying 90 percent of construction costs (up to $1.3 billion) and 80 percent of cost overruns—developers would receive a return on investment with almost no risk. Homeowners and businesses would pay the cost with no benefit.

Will this project damage the Hudson Valley’s natural, cultural and agricultural resources? YES!

Expert independent analyses, commissioned by the HVSEC, of the project’s environmental and visual impacts clearly show that all proposals pose potential impacts to historic sites (including Frederic Church’s Olana and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Sites) and prime ecological resources (including sensitive wetlands and endangered species habitats). The analyses also conclude there are several proposals that, based on their environmental and visual effects, should be eliminated from further consideration.

The bottom line: The project is expensive, unnecessary and jeopardizes the very assets that make the Hudson Valley so special and are the foundation of its rebounding economy. Ironically New York State (along with groups like Scenic Hudson) has invested millions of dollars in protecting many of the resources—popular parks and historic sites, farms supplying fresh food to local and New York City markets—now imperiled by this project.

Call Gov. Cuomo at 518 474 8390. Contact the PSC at this link.

Regional Coalition Supports PSC’s Elimination of Some Power Lines Proposals with Greatest Impacts

i Jul 23rd Comments Off by

HVSEC Agrees with PSC that Remaining Proposals Could Still Have Significant Environmental and Visual Impacts and looks forward to upcoming Technical Conference on need for proposed projects

HUDSON VALLEY—During a two-day Technical Conference hosted by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to evaluate proposed high-voltage power lines that would run through a major swath of the Hudson Valley, expert consultants for the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) reported on potential major environmental and visual impacts that could be expected if the transmission project proceeds. The HVSEC said its research supports PSC staff recommendations that 13 of the proposals recognized for having unacceptable potential adverse impacts should be eliminated from further consideration. The group also agreed with the PSC staff conclusion that the projects identified as meriting further review would need continued scrutiny regarding their environmental and visual impacts.

PSC staff issued its recommendations in an Interim Report released on July 15 and presented at the Technical Conference. The HVSEC is committed to helping achieve a 21st–century energy system in New York State that meets energy needs while protecting resources and quality of life in the Hudson Valley.

No need proven by NYS PSC for large-scale, rate-payer funded project

The HVSEC also continued to highlight that need has not been demonstrated for the power lines, proposed under the state’s Energy Highway initiative, that could reach a height of 120 feet and cut through 25 communities in seven Hudson Valley counties, potentially adversely impacting businesses and regional assets that are the foundation of the region’s economy. The HVSEC also stated that its initial expert analysis raises serious questions about whether need exists and that it looks forward to presenting data on need when the PSC holds a Technical Conference in the fall dedicated to the need question.

Value of, and investments in, valley’s natural assets raise threshold for need determination

The Technical Conference provided an opportunity for the HVSEC to outline the unique importance of the Hudson Valley’s environmental and scenic resources as well as a host of federal and state public policies and investments aimed at protecting this valuable “green infrastructure.” The coalition communicated to the PSC during the technical sessions that the policies and investments create a high threshold for consideration when determining whether there is a need for the proposed new transmission towers and lines. Also, if need is established, the national and state importance of the valley’s resources most likely will require mitigation measures.

In addition to Hudson Valley and other downstate utility customers paying 90 percent of the projects’ costs—which could exceed $1 billion—as well as 80 percent of any cost overruns, Hudson Valley residents also could experience losses to one of the regional economy’s most important resources—the unique scenic and environmental qualities that attract visitors, companies and skilled workers.

Important environmental, scenic and agricultural lands are the cornerstone of a sustainable Hudson Valley economy. By maintaining scenic working landscapes, rural heritage and quality of life, preserving farmland also helps drive economic growth. A study by The Trust for Public Land notes that executives looking to relocate or start firms rank quality of life—including an abundance of parks and open space—higher than housing, cost of living and good schools. Further, conserved farms safeguard wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive areas, including local aquifers and drinking-water supplies.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “By recommending elimination of the transmission line proposals that would have caused the greatest damage to the region’s environmental and scenic resources, the Public Service Commission has recognized the importance of the natural, historic and cultural assets of the Hudson Valley. It has also acknowledged that even those proposals recommended for continued consideration could cause significant environmental impacts requiring mitigation. We look forward to working with the PSC to examine whether the transmission lines are needed at all in the context of the numerous federal and state public policies and investments aimed at protecting them.”

“Although we find that we are largely in agreement with PSC staff regarding the relative impact of the various proposals, it’s important to understand the process is far from over. In Claverack, we are concerned that two of the proposals recommended to move forward would increase the height of local towers by as much as 20 feet, while removing the forested buffer that shields historic residential neighborhoods from the power lines. We are also concerned that the process is moving forward with the actual need still not having been proven, despite ample evidence calling need into question,” said Farmers and Families for Claverack leader Ian Solomon. “If one of these proposals is approved, the ratepayer and property owner will see largely risk with little to no reward, while the opposite is true for the developers. Because of this, it is crucial to establish need before substantially moving forward. We look forward to having this discussion when the PSC is ready.”

“I appreciate the work of the PSC and all concerned parties in eliminating the proposed projects with unacceptable potential environmental and visual impacts. I look forward to the continuing dialog as the remaining projects are further reviewed and the questions of need and budget are addressed,” said Omega Institute for Holistic Studies Chief Executive Officer Robert “Skip” Backus.

Federal and state policies meant to preserve the valley’s unique assets

Many state laws and public policies give high priority to protecting Hudson Valley resources. The valley is one of two regions of New York that include Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance under state and federal coastal management law. These regulatory protections are further supported by Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans. Areas of the Hudson Valley under consideration for the new power lines include numerous state-designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats, and state and federal classified wetlands. Protecting these cultural and environmental resources is a public policy priority under the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, New York Open Space Plan and the Hudson River Valley Greenway’s mission.

Supporting the viability of the agricultural sector of the valley’s economy is endorsed by public policies at all levels of government. Several counties have adopted Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plans, and Gov. Cuomo’s recently approved state budget earmarked an unprecedented $20 million commitment to farmland protection in the Hudson Valley.

The HVSEC stated that some of the transmission proposals, including some recommended by PSC staff for continued consideration, would directly and negatively impact these important policy initiatives and investments.

Visual impacts potentially damaging to FDR sites, Olana and other job-creating attractions

Presenting for the HVSEC at the Technical Conference, Dr. Richard Smardon, professor emeritus at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, cited potential visual impacts from the transmission line projects. Dr. Smardon found that there was potential for significantly increased visual impacts in the Hudson Valley from some of the project proposals.

Agricultural areas in Columbia County are particularly vulnerable to any increase in height or number of transmission towers, due to the significant distance over which lines can be seen on the agricultural landscape. Farms are a major part of the local economy in Columbia County. Agriculture and tourism in Columbia County are responsible for more than 1,400 jobs and $115 million in spending annually.

In addition, a number of designated Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance would be traversed by the proposed power lines, which could be visible from the Olana State Historic Site and the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, both of which attract tens of thousands of visitors per year—and contribute strongly to the local economy—in part due to the scenic beauty of their natural surroundings.

One proposed project would create a new utility corridor directly adjacent to the FDR Home and Library and through the Roosevelt Farm Lane property and Val-Kill. These National Historic Sites are key destinations of the regional tourism economy in Dutchess County that brings in $475 million in spending yearly and is linked to more than 8,400 jobs. New transmission lines towering nearly 100 feet over the bucolic Roosevelt historic sites would detract from the beauty and integrity of these places. The Farm Lane—historically part of the Roosevelt estate and frequented by FDR during his lifetime—was sold by descendants of the president after his death. When Scenic Hudson preserved the land in 2007 and transferred it to the National Park Service, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne termed it “the most important expansion of the Roosevelt National Historic Site that will ever happen.” The HVSEC supports the PSC staff recommendation to eliminate the proposal that would impact the Roosevelt properties and other proposals with the greatest environmental impacts.

Environmental impacts of concern to communities and local economies

Also presenting on behalf of the HVSEC at the Technical Conference was Liza Norment, environmental scientist, CC Environment & Planning of Batavia, N.Y. Ms. Norment stated that her firm evaluated potential environmental impacts from the transmission line projects under consideration by the PSC. The firm found that all of the proposed projects would likely result in some permanent environmental impacts to wetlands, water resources, and/or sensitive habitat areas within the Hudson Valley. Projects that propose to use a new transmission right-of-way had high potential for significant impacts, and generally projects that consist entirely of reconductoring would have comparatively less impact. Numerous state-designated Significant Coastal Habitats, Significant Natural Communities and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation classified wetlands could be compromised by one or more of the proposals. Two of the proposals involve entirely new transmission rights-of-way that would impact the state-recognized Illinois Mountain Biologically Important Area in Ulster County.

Coalition continues to strengthen scientific basis for lack of need

HVSEC also has engaged experts to evaluate whether the proposed transmission lines are needed at all. The PSC has postponed the part of the Technical Conference that would focus on this issue, so its staff can evaluate new power generation capacity expected to come on line, further reducing the rationale for the transmission solutions. The HVSEC is prepared to present its case on this issue when the PSC is ready to proceed.

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. More information available at www.hvsec.org.

Regional Coalition Submits Expert Reports Showing Proposed Power Lines Would Have Environmental and Visual Impacts Including Impairment to Roosevelt National Historic Site

i Jul 7th Comments Off by

HVSEC looks forward to upcoming two-part technical conference

HUDSON VALLEY—The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) on July 6 submitted to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) a series of reports by expert consultants. These reports indicate potential major environmental and visual impacts from a current proposal for high-voltage power lines in the Hudson Valley. Research shows some of the proposed projects would threaten the farms and orchards in the heart of the valley’s agricultural region as well as the most-visited natural, cultural and historic sites, including the Roosevelt National Historic Site, where Franklin Roosevelt lived from boyhood through his presidency. The lines proposed under the state’s Energy Highway initiative could reach a height of 120 feet and cut through 25 communities in seven Hudson Valley counties, impacting businesses and regional assets that are the foundation of the region’s economy.

The expert reports will serve as the basis of HVSEC presentations in a PSC Technical Conference on Monday, July 20, to discuss environmental, visual and other impacts of the proposed transmission line projects. The HVSEC also has recently been informed by the PSC that its Department of Public Service staff will require more time to analyze need for the proposed high-voltage power lines, so the part of the Technical Conference that addresses need will be postponed until a future date.

Visual impacts could be damaging to FDR sites, Olana and other job-creating attractions

HVSEC engaged Dr. Richard Smardon, professor emeritus at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, to evaluate potential visual impacts from the transmission line projects. Dr. Smardon found that there was potential for significantly increased visual impacts in the Hudson Valley from some of the project proposals. Agricultural areas in Columbia County are particularly vulnerable to any increase in height or number of transmission towers, due to the significant distance over which lines can be seen on the agricultural landscape. Farms are a major part of the local economy in Columbia County. Agriculture and tourism in Columbia County are responsible for more than 1,400 jobs, and $115 million in spending annually.

In addition, a number of designated Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance would be traversed by the proposed power lines, which could be visible from the Olana State Historic Site and the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, both of which are facilities attracting tens of thousands of visitors per year—and contributing strongly to the local economy—in part due to the scenic beauty of their natural surroundings.

One proposed project would create a new utility corridor directly adjacent to the FDR Home and Library and through the Roosevelt Farm Lane property and Val-Kill. These National Historic Sites are key destinations of the regional tourism economy in Dutchess County that brings in $475 million in spending yearly and is linked to more than 8,400 jobs. New transmission lines towering nearly 100 feet over the bucolic Roosevelt historic sites would detract from the beauty and integrity of these places. The Farm Lane—historically part of the Roosevelt estate and frequented by FDR during his lifetime—was sold by descendants of the president after his death. When Scenic Hudson preserved the land in 2007 and transferred it to the National Park Service, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne termed it “the most important expansion of the Roosevelt National Historic Site that will ever happen.” The construction of new transmission lines through this key link between two National Historic Sites would be a major blow to the integrity of the properties and regional heritage-tourism economy.

Environmental impacts should be of concern to communities and local economies

HVSEC engaged CC Environment & Planning of Batavia, N.Y., to evaluate potential environmental impacts from the transmission line projects under consideration by the PSC. The firm found that all of the proposed projects would likely result in some permanent environmental impacts to wetlands, water resources, and/or sensitive habitat areas within the Hudson Valley. Projects that propose to use a new transmission right-of-way had high potential for significant impacts, and generally projects that consist entirely of reconductoring would have comparatively less impact. Numerous state-designated Significant Coastal Habitats, Significant Natural Communities and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation classified wetlands could be compromised by one or more of the proposals. Two of the proposals involve entirely new transmission rights-of-way that would impact the state-recognized Illinois Mountain Biologically Important Area in Ulster County.

In addition to Hudson Valley and other downstate utility customers paying 90 percent of the projects’ costs—which could exceed $1 billion—as well as 80 percent of any cost overruns, Hudson Valley residents also could lose one of the regional economy’s most important resources—the unique scenic and environmental qualities that attract visitors, companies and skilled workers.

Important environmental, scenic and agricultural lands are the cornerstone of a sustainable Hudson Valley economy. By maintaining scenic working landscapes, rural heritage and quality of life, preserving farmland also helps drive economic growth. A study by The Trust for Public Land notes that executives looking to relocate or start firms rank quality of life—including an abundance of parks and open space—higher than housing, cost of living and good schools. Further, conserved farms safeguard wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive areas, including local aquifers and drinking-water supplies.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “While Governor Cuomo has stated his policy preference for projects that stay within existing utility corridors, the Energy Highway continues to attract projects that cast a shadow over the very assets of the Hudson Valley that are generating jobs and contributing to the region’s quality of life. Proposals that could cost ratepayers over $1 billion without demonstrated need and damage heritage sites such as the place where President Roosevelt guided the nation through the Great Depression and World War II should be relegated to the wastebin of history.”

“Large industrial-scale towers are incompatible with the Hudson Valley’s growing agritourism, which is a bright but fragile emerging upstate economy,” said Will Yandik, deputy supervisor of the Town of Livingston and fourth-generation farmer. “Increasingly, viewsheds and scenery are commodities that farmers capitalize on as much as the fresh fruit and produce they raise on their lands.”

Omega Institute for Holistic Studies Chief Executive Officer Robert “Skip” Backus said, “Every so often a decision comes in front of a community that can have impact for generations. For the Hudson Valley the proposed power line development is one of those decisions. The scenic beauty of the region is the foundation of our economic and social well-being and one of the main reasons we chose to call the valley home. My hope, given that we now know there is no need for this project, and the significant negative impact it will have on the region’s environment, is that we will act as stewards of the future and not proceed with the proposed development.”

“The Hudson Valley is one of the finest jewels in New York’s crown and the unique and speciality agriculture that the Hudson Valley has become known for needs to be nurtured and grown rather than be negatively impacted by the shortsighted, archaic and unneeded plan of more and bigger transmission wires to deliver electricity from upstate to downstate,” said Greg Quinn of Walnut Grove Farm. “Don’t downgrade the blooming agriculture industry and burgeoning agritourism in the Hudson Valley with this ill-conceived Energy Highway ‘upgrade.’ ”

“We depend on two major drivers for our economy in Columbia County—tourism and agriculture,” said Farmers and Families for Claverack leader Ian Solomon. “If a project comes along that threatens both of those drivers, we need to step back and take a look at why it’s being proposed, how much it might cost and what the benefit would be to area residents and businesses. So far we’ve been completely unsatisfied with the answers we’ve discovered.”

Coalition remains eager to demonstrate lack of need for proposed power lines

HVSEC also has engaged experts to evaluate whether the proposed transmission lines are needed at all. The PSC has postponed the part of the technical conference that would focus on this issue, so its staff can evaluate new power generation capacity expected to come on line, further reducing the rationale for the transmission solutions. The HVSEC is prepared to present its case on this issue when the PSC is ready to proceed.

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. More information available at www.hvsec.org.

Physicist to Discuss Need for Major Power Lines Projects

i Jun 26th Comments Off by

Saturday, July 11 – Event at Pleasant Valley Town Hall

HUDSON VALLEY—Following rave reviews—from the public and press—at presentations in Columbia and Dutchess counties last fall, an independent research physicist will come to Pleasant Valley to showcase his findings that existing power lines can meet our region’s peak electricity-demand needs well into the future. The presentation will be hosted by members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, a broad-based collaboration of community groups and officials partnered with Scenic Hudson in working to protect Hudson Valley communities from potential negative impacts of new high-voltage power lines. The coalition is interested in innovative energy systems that don’t damage community assets. The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is seeking to expand 150 miles of transmission lines that would pass through 7 counties and 25 towns in the Hudson Valley, ultimately reaching their destination in Dutchess County.

The upcoming presentation will be held Saturday, July 11, from 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon in the Pleasant Valley Town Hall, 1554 Main St., Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County.

The presentation—to feature supplemental findings not included in the fall presentations—will be by Bard College Research Professor of Environmental Science and Physics Gidon Eshel, Ph.D., a geophysicist with expertise in data analysis and efficiency metrics. As a credentialed, professional researcher, Dr. Eshel has prepared a scientific analysis of the consumer-demand issue related to the proposed transmission lines. Members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy coalition will be in attendance and able to provide information about the proposed high-voltage power lines and how citizens can be involved in the regulatory review process being managed by the PSC.

Wide participation sought for presentation

All interested parties are invited to attend to learn about the only independent model to date created to assess electricity-demand need before potentially locking ratepayers into a long-term obligation. Among the attendees sought are state and local representatives, municipal officials, members of the state PSC and New York Independent System Operator, ratepayers concerned with implications of a $1-billion project, and citizens concerned with potential impacts to scenic, historic, farming and general economic assets of the region.

Town of Milan Town Board Member Marion Mathison stated, “Dr. Eshel and the coalition seek scientific review and discussion with the PSC, NYISO, state energy officials, FERC and any and all responsible agencies and scientists. The time to discuss and debate need is now.”

“The Energy Highway threatens the beauty and farmland of the Hudson Valley with towering new transmission lines,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “Governor Cuomo has launched another initiative to reform New York’s power grid through innovation and conservation. Gidon Eshel’s compelling presentation demonstrates new transmission lines are not needed. As a result we can immediately begin the transition to a 21st-century energy system, putting New York in the national vanguard and saving the beauty and economy of the Hudson Valley.”

“Dr. Eshel’s analysis is a game changer. This countywide presentation at Pleasant Valley Town Hall on July 11 is a must for anyone living in, and concerned about, the Hudson River Valley,” said Town of Clinton Supervisor Ray Oberly.

Greg Quinn of Walnut Grove Farm said, “Before entering into a potentially billion-dollar project, we as ratepayers and communities deserve a hard look at whether it’s necessary. We are fortunate to have such an accomplished scientist willing to take on a study such as this, and it will be good to let people know the issue hasn’t gone away, but has perhaps become even more urgent.”

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. More information available at www.hvsec.org.

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.