Report: NYRI spending masks flaws

By BRYON ACKERMAN

Observer-Dispatch
Posted Jun 01, 2008 @ 11:57 PM
Last update Jun 02, 2008 @ 06:19 AM

New York Regional Interconnect has spent almost $14 million on its proposed power line project without proving its necessity, according to a new report from a multi-county group fighting the plan. 

Communities Against Regional Interconnect reviewed NYRI’s application to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and said it found: 

* A lack of technical merit. 

* Outdated images and maps. 

* Assumptions based on incomplete or flawed information. 

* Missing information required on the power line’s environmental impact, cultural

Assessing NYRI’s spending
Some details:

* Engineering and economic modeling consultants: $3,296,379.

* Fees paid to regulatory agencies: $3,260,481.

* Option payments to lease railroad rights of way: $2 million.

* Government relations: $1,482,811.

* Legal fees: $1,270,416.

* Management salaries: $1,048,278.

* Public relations: $943,571.

resources and system reliability. 

Justification of NYRI’s application remains “woefully deficient,” said Steven DiMeo, chairman of Communities Against Regional Interconnect and president of the Rome-based Mohawk Valley EDGE economic-development agency. 

NYRI has spent less on engineering and economic-impact modeling than it has on legal fees and government and public relations, the report found. 

“I think, frankly, they have it all wrong,” DiMeo said. “If they feel strongly about their application, they should spend money on engineering and technical evaluations. And they haven’t done that.” 

The proposed NYRI power line would run from Marcy to Orange County, helping supply power to the southeastern part of the state. The plan, made public two years ago, galvanized residents along the route who fear impacts to their health, housing values and quality of life. 

Utica resident Phil Gulla Jr. said he’s against the power line because it wouldn’t help people who live in Oneida County. He’s also concerned about the amount of money NYRI has spent on influencing the public and government, he said. 

“If they’re spending it on public relations, that means they’re greasing people up instead of spending it on letting the locals know what’s going on,” he said. 

NYRI spokesman David Kalson said late Sunday night he wouldn’t comment on the group’s report because he hadn’t seen it. 

NYRI applications denied 

The report comes out at a time when NYRI is entangled in a variety of governmental approval processes. 

* Most recently, the New York Independent System Operator’s Operating Committee rejected a NYRI study assessing the power-line’s impact on the state’s electrical transmission system. 

* That study is necessary for NYRI to complete its application to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for seeking a higher rate of return for its investors than would ordinarily be allowed. 

Now, NYRI will have to appeal the Independent System Operator committee’s decision or else revise and resubmit the study to the not-for-profit organization that operates the state’s bulk electricity grid and wholesale market. 

The federal commission on May 13 had deemed NYRI’s application insufficient. Power-line company spokesman Kalson said NYRI submitted the requested information last Tuesday. 

But DiMeo said the real issue is what his organization’s new study found: that NYRI’s spending hasn’t produced results. 

“After two years, all they’ve been able to do is file incomplete applications,” DiMeo said. 

“Once you scratch below the surface of all their PR, you’ll find very little substance.”

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