SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — It’s been almost three years since readers first heard the name New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI), and associated terms like National Interest Electricity Transmission Corridor (NIETC).
For those who need a refresher course, here’s a quick survey of where things stand. It took more than two years for NYRI officials to provide to the NY Public Service Commission (PSC) what was ultimately determined to be a complete application. That happened in August of 2008, and the PSC review of the application is due to be completed in August 2009.
It is not clear, however, when the PSC will make its decision on the matter. In response to an article in The River Reporter in November 2008, Jim Denn, the PSC director of public affairs, said, “It has not been determined when the commission will make its decision.”
But if the PSC doesn’t make a decision by August 2009, NYRI might have the option of taking the matter to the federal level, to get permits for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which was granted the ability to overrule states on the subject of power line siting via the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Almost all New York State politicians have taken hard stands against the 190-mile powerline, and the groups fighting the power line are still hard at work, if mostly out of sight, while the battle is waged in legal minutiae at the PSC.
In a ruling released on December 22, 2008 the administrative law judges overseeing the application review granted the request of PSC staff that “NYRI be directed to provide specific, additional information” regarding alternative route segments for the proposed power line. In November, PSC staff declared that if the line were built it should run parallel to the existing Marcy South lines, rather than on new ground that currently has no power lines.
The judges also ruled, among other things, that the group Communities Against Regional Interconnection (CARI), which is made up of politicians and activists, give more specific information about its suggested NYRI alternative, which the judges called the “thruway buried-cable alternative,” which would run parallel to the NYS Thruway.
NYRI has called both alternatives unworkable, mostly for reasons of cost.
It is, of course, far from certain what the outcome of the PSC proceedings will be. But major players in the state electricity community, such as the New York Independent System Operator, have said there is no need for the NYRI power line at this point in time, so opponents remain hopeful that the decision by the PSC will go their way.
They are further hopeful that with a new administration in Washington, an administration that is not as inextricably linked to the energy industry as the previous one, some provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 will be overturned, thus defeating the project on the federal level.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer
Staff of the NY Public Service Comission has recommended that if the NYRI power line must be built it should be placed along the existing Marcy South lines, above, which already run through the county and the state. (Click for larger version)