Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition Reaffirms Commitment to New York State Residents

Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition Reaffirms Commitment to New York State Residents

i Mar 23rd Comments Off by

Coalition Continues Mission to Inform and Represent Utility Customers in Proceeding

 

The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) in 2015, after a lengthy legal and public relations campaign, gained significant concessions from the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) and developers regarding their proposed $1 billion transmission project, securing promises that the work would be done without the use of eminent domain and that potential towers would conform to the existing right-of-way in both width and height.  While these concessions are important, they are merely promises which have not been codified into any law or statute, and thus should receive our continued vigilance.

HVSEC also presented evidence during the proceeding that demonstrated these transmission upgrades failed a basic cost-benefit analysis and were not needed, but the PSC sidestepped the debate by qualifying the projects as necessary based on public policy needs, a rarely-used procedural tactic that is subjective in nature.  Now, the project continues and HVSEC remains committed to keeping a close eye on the next phase and informing the public of all new developments.

The “wins” for Hudson Valley residents

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.

Despite these victories, there are no guarantees transmission lines will be built to this standard. The process is far from over and warrants continued monitoring to ensure these hard-fought wins are not eroded.

HVSEC and the PSC have agreed to disagree

Since its inception, HVSEC has advocated that need should be established prior to moving forward with the project – a different order of operations than the PSC’s preferred approach.

To help contribute to the general record available to all stakeholders in the proceeding, HVSEC was awarded intervenor funding for specific quantitative research completed by energy experts and scientists.

Research delivered by these independent scientists and professionals that there is no need for additional overhead transmission lines, particularly given the established decline in electricity usage over the past five years, and projected declines for the future. HVSEC made the case that $1+ billions of ratepayer money would be better spent on projects with tangible benefits.

The PSC disagreed, and is proceeding with the project based on “public policy justifications.” The public policy process and justification is another new process for NYS. HVSEC looks forward to participating actively in this new phase.

“We are very pleased,” said Greg Quinn, spokesman for HVSEC, “that in 2016 the New York Public Service Commission publicly recognized that this project could feasibly be constructed inside existing energy corridors. We feel that without the Coalition’s intervention this recognition would not have happened. This policy, if followed, eliminates the threat of eminent domain. But final decisions about routes are not likely to be made for at least three years. HVSEC is absolutely committed to watch-dog the process, making every effort to assure that eminent domain and the prospect of ruined landscapes do not reappear.”

The decision to proceed with the project based on public policy justifications “…is disappointing,” said Quinn, “but it does not change our mission and our commitment to provide the opportunity for residents and stakeholders to participate in the process. This participation is essential to ensure appropriate oversight of government agencies and private developers as they create new processes and decide how much money New York State residents will pay.”

The Coalition will continue to facilitate efforts to build and maintain a superior, efficient, modern grid. “We want to bring people together around one table to share, educate, and create common ground,” said Quinn.

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. The HVSEC was formed in 2014 to advocate for constituents and stakeholders impacted by the new high voltage overhead transmission lines proposed by the NYS PSC. The Coalition has worked for over three years to address five primary issues:

  • Threat of eminent domain, resulting in loss of homes and livelihoods
  • Loss of historic, scenic, agricultural, and natural resources in the Hudson Valley, threatening economic health
  • Lack of evidence of actual need for new overhead transmission lines
  • Driving up the cost of electric supply in a State with some of the highest electric pricing in the nation, with limited associated benefits.
  • Reliance on 19th century energy solutions instead of 21st century innovation

Mid-Year 2016 Update

i Jun 1st Comments Off by

(originally published Summer 2016)

MID-YEAR UPDATE:
New Proposals Solicited by NYISO Feature Transmission and Non-transmission Alternatives

After several years of active engagement (summarized here), we have now spent the first half of 2016 waiting for an update on the AC Transmission proceeding that has been a focus for many Hudson Valley residents since 2013.

This past December, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) ruled that there is a need, driven by “Public Policy Requirements,” for new 345 kV major electric transmission lines to move power from upstate New York to downstate. The PSC determined that lines should be built in two segments: Segment A running from Western New York to the Albany area; and Segment B extending from the Albany area to Pleasant Valley within existing corridors. In response to public pressure surrounding the project, the PSC mandated that there be no creation of new rights-of-way and no new crossings of the Hudson River.

A few days ago, the first bits of news on the next phase of the operation became available. In response to the PSC’s ruling, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the operator of New York’s power grid, solicited a brand new round of submissions for transmission and non-transmission proposals within the segments defined by the PSC. While detailed information on each proposal is not yet available, we do have a summary of the proposals below.

The quick takeaway: three of the original applicants have submitted proposals, and there are submissions from three new developers, including one that has proposed a non-transmission alternative. Here is what we know so far about them:

  • National Grid/Transco submitted two AC transmission projects, one for Segment A (the Western New York segment) and one for Segment B (the Hudson Valley segment).
  • NextEra submitted three AC transmission projects, one for Segment A and two alternatives for Segment B.
  • North America Transmission submitted six AC transmission projects: four alternatives for Segment A and two alternatives for Segment B.
  • A new developer, ITC New York Development, submitted two AC transmission projects, one for Segment A and one for Segment B.
  • Another new developer, AvanGrid (a subsidiary of Iberdrola) submitted two alternative HVDC transmission projects. Since these are designated as DC projects, they are likely proposed to run underground.
  • Finally, Glidepath, a company that appears to do mostly battery-storage projects, submitted a non-transmission project consisting of a Distributed Generation Portfolio. The size indicated for this project is only 112 MW, which raises a question as to whether it’s intended to be a standalone project or to complement other projects.

As we have mentioned in the past, the NYISO process is focused exclusively on the viability and sufficiency of projects, their cost-effectiveness and whether they meet the criteria set out by the PSC, and it does not allow for any formal public input. State agencies and officials also do not have any jurisdiction over the NYISO process. However, the NYISO does not make any final decision as to what (if anything) will actually be built—it will make a recommendation to the PSC, which will accept or reject it, and if a transmission alternative is chosen, it will then begin a full Article VII review (“Part B”), which will determine whether a certificate for the selected transmission proposal is granted.

Our legal team plans to monitor the NYISO’s June 7th meeting regarding this project. Once we have a better idea of what the proposals look like, we will share whatever updated information we have, and advise whether there is any action we plan to take before the NYISO makes its recommendation back to the PSC.

Regarding the final in-service date for a potential project, the PSC said in its December ruling, “Ideally, the new facilities would be in service prior to the summer capability period of 2019.”

At this time we are still just asking people to stay tuned for updates. We will update again shortly when we have further information on this stage of the proceeding.

 

Potential timeline moving forward (speculative and subject to change):

  1. PSC ARTICLE VII PROCESS—PART A
    Greater public participation allowed
    concluded 12/16/2015—to be picked up in Part B
  2. NYISO PROCESS
    Very limited public participation
    NYISO issued Request For Proposals—Spring 2016
    Responses were due within 60 days—proposals are now posted at NYISO as listed above
    NYISO takes three to six months to evaluate – potentially issuing a recommendation by Oct.-Nov. 2016
  3. PSC ARTICLE VII PROCESS – PART B
    Greater public participation allowed
    Part B begins early 2017

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.

Research by Respected Energy Economics Firm Shows No Need for Proposed High-Voltage Power Lines

i Sep 23rd Comments Off by

Report forecasts declining congestion and capacity pricing

HUDSON VALLEY—New research by a highly respected firm, with core expertise in utility markets, forecasts a pending steep decline in electric transmission congestion and consumer electricity prices for the Mid and Lower Hudson Valley regions. The research report was submitted yesterday by the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) for its review of proposed high-voltage power lines that would run through a major swath of the Hudson Valley. The report provides an independent viewpoint from an authoritative source—a firm typically engaged by utilities and government—and the research is significant to the PSC’s review because it deals directly with the issues cited as the rationale for a costly project with documented potential impacts to the environment and agricultural, historic and community resources.

Report by utility forecasting expert with track record in state proceedings

The HVSEC hired London Economics International, LLC (LEI) to provide an independent outlook for the New York wholesale electricity market and the potential level of congestion costs that could be expected. LEI is a global advisory firm specializing in energy and infrastructure with clients that include American Electric Power, Con Edison, Exelon, Green Mountain Energy and PSEG Energy Resources. LEI’s proprietary simulation model used for electricity market forecasting has been used successfully in New York and other jurisdictions for regulatory proceedings.

Electricity congestion for proposed project area expected to decline as much as 85 percent in next 15 years

LEI’s report is a forward-looking study of the energy and capacity prices in the New York wholesale electricity market over the period of 2016 to 2034. LEI used several factors, including three different natural gas fuel price forecasts. The firm then evaluated the markets relevant to the proposed high-voltage transmission lines project—the area from western New York to the eastern zones of the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island. Historically this system is constrained in how much of the less expensive electricity generated in the western part of New York can be supplied to the eastern and downstate areas. The LEI study also looked at the upstate to downstate interface, which under certain circumstances can limit electricity supply to the Lower Hudson Valley.

Outlook for lower cost natural gas—the fuel that produces electricity—big factor in electric rates

LEI concluded that the annual congestion pricing is forecasted to decline by between 70 and 85 percent by 2030 as compared with 2016-2017 levels. Under all three natural gas pricing scenarios, congestion is predicted to decrease as compared to recent historic levels. The main drivers of this trend are additional downstate supply resources and changes to the natural gas price differences between western and eastern New York.

New Capacity Zone creating local generation that also will lower electric prices

Another factor that has led to higher downstate energy prices has been capacity pricing, as a result of a New Capacity Zone (NCZ) created to encourage investment in power plants within the Hudson Valley. Creation of the NCZ already has attracted new electricity generation and this will significantly lower capacity prices beginning in 2018.

Expert report supports HVSEC position that proposed transmission lines have no demonstrated need

LEI’s forecasted declines in congestion and capacity pricing support the HVSEC position that need has not been shown for the proposed high-voltage 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.

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “This rigorous science-based report indicates that we don’t need a hugely expensive transmission project. We now have the basis that would allow the PSC to halt further consideration of the developer proposals. Previously the PSC recognized the unique importance of the Hudson Valley’s natural, historic and cultural assets. It also has acknowledged that even the best of the proposed projects could cause significant impacts to this ‘green infrastructure’ for which numerous federal and state public policies and investments have been aimed at protecting. Without an overwhelming need to justify the project, there is no reason to pursue an initiative that would damage natural resources that bring our region significant jobs and quality of life.”

“We’ve heard again and again from proponents of this project that we need it, it will help us. The main reason given is that it will lower our electricity bills,” said Ian Solomon of Farmers and Families for Claverack. “People in New York who pay utility bills could be forgiven for some skepticism regarding this claim, as our electricity bills are already among the highest in the nation, and virtually no action undertaken to date has lowered them, quite the opposite in fact. Now we have independent verification that this project would very likely raise our bills again, while also potentially scarring our landscape. We hope our state government will side with New York’s ratepayers in this proceeding. Anything that would cost New Yorkers more without improving service cannot be good public policy.”

Greg Quinn of Walnut Grove Farm said, “The findings by this analysis from LEI not only demonstrate the irrationality of this particular project but further complement the recent in-depth study and presentations by Gidon Eshel, Bard College research professor of Environmental Physics, which conclusively demonstrate that there is no need for this proposal. Congestion is being progressively eliminated and electrical usage is steadily declining as more efficient appliances and new local generation technology is being developed and utilized throughout New York State. The damage to the crucial agricultural and environmental elements and growing tourism in the proposed corridor, in conjunction with the $1.3-billion cost, which is several times more than the financial benefit, disqualifies this project. To proceed would be a major blunder in New York energy policy.”

Preservation League of New York State President Jay A. DiLorenzo said, “LEI’s findings make clear that there is simply no compelling reason to compromise the unique historic, cultural and natural resources of this region. These resources are important because the Hudson Valley’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes have played host to the people and events that have shaped our state and our nation. Visitors to this day can see the vistas that inspired Hudson River School painters, walk through the homes of our nation’s early patriots and enjoy the vibrant communities that continue to attract gifted entrepreneurs.”

New forecast adds to earlier report that current transmission capacity can meet future peak demand

In addition to LEI’s report, Dr. Gidon Eshel, research professor of Environmental Physics at Bard College, prepared a report presenting results of a model of future downstate peak electricity loads, which concludes that no additional infrastructure is needed to meet them. Dr. Eshel used population ratio, population increases and temperature to predict peak energy loads in the downstate New York region. He then determined that anticipated supply in the region, even with closure of the Indian Point nuclear facility, will be sufficient to meet peak demand, concluding that no additional generation or transmission capacity is needed in the region.

State’s own energy authority has signaled proposed power lines not needed for system reliability

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which is responsible for operating the state’s electricity grid as well as administrating the wholesale power market, issued a Reliability Needs Assessment (RNA) in September 2014. The NYISO study is based on standards designed to ensure the occurrence of less than one day of electricity supply shortfall every 10 years. This most recent RNA concluded that without repowering the Danskammer generating plant in Newburgh or including other Hudson Valley projects that are quickly moving forward, the Hudson Valley will meet or exceed this stringent standard for at least the next 10 years. In July 2015, when NYISO released a Comprehensive Reliability Plan it stated that with returned capacity in the critical region that includes the Hudson Valley, and with transmission upgrades in other regions, New York’s power system has adequate resources to reliably meet the state’s electric demand over the next 10 years under expected system conditions.

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 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.