February 19, 2009, Daily Star: NYRI opponents urge more action

NYRI opponents urge more action

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By Jake Palmateer
Staff Writer

LAURENS _ Opponents of the 400,000-volt NYRI power line on Wednesday urged Otsego County residents to rise in opposition even as they hailed what they said was a major victory in the fight against the project.

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and Otsego County Board of Representatives Chairman James Powers joined leaders of Communities Against Regional Interconnect, an umbrella group of NYRI opponents, at a forum at Laurens Central School.

New York Regional Interconnect has applied to the state's Public Service Commission to build a $2 billion, 190-mile-long transmission line from Marcy in Oneida County to New Windsor in Orange County. Various routes, including one following the existing Marcy South line in Otsego and Delaware counties, have been studied by the company.

A federal court Wednesday struck down rules that would have allowed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the power line even if the PSC denied it within one year of the completed application's submission.

"The good news is the Fourth Circuit Court out of Richmond, Va., pretty much affirmed many of the points our group made," CARI Chairman Steve DiMeo said. "We think that's an important ruling today."

DiMeo said it is the latest in a series of setbacks for NYRI.

"We're knocking chess pieces off the chess board, and they have fewer and fewer pieces with which to make a move," DiMeo said.

Opponents of NYRI believe the project would: result in higher electricity rates in upstate New York, is not needed, would taint the landscape of the region and could have health and safety risks.

NYRI contends the proposal is a technologically innovative, congestion-reducing project that would alleviate electricity supply concerns in the New York City area.

"The proposed NYRI line, wherever it would be built, is a bad deal for upstate New York," Seward said to the Laurens audience of about 20 county residents. "The list of reasons to oppose this line is a long list."

Much of the fight against NYRI has been outside of Otsego County because the primary route proposed by the company would take the line through Oneida, Madison, Delaware and Chenango counties. But the PSC has said the alternative route proposed by NYRI through Otsego County is a viable option.

STOP NYRI co-chairwoman Eve Ann Shwartz, who is also a CARI representative, urged the audience to get involved in the fight against NYRI, which she said was not over.

CARI has raised $2.1 million for its cause, while NYRI has spent $19 million in its effort to get the project approved, Shwartz said.

Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Madison, Oneida, Orange and Sullivan county governments are already partners with CARI, and those counties have provided 47 percent of CARI's funding, according to Shwartz.

Otsego County may be next, Powers said.

He said he expects the county board to discuss the issue March 4 and possibly appropriate funds for CARI.

"The number I heard mentioned is $50,000," Powers said.

A PSC decision on the power line is expected by August. Before Wednesday's court ruling, if the PSC were not to rule on NYRI by August, a year after the firm's completed application was submitted to the state, the project could have been approved by FERC.

"We don't believe there is a need for any line," DiMeo said.

But he said CARI has suggested two alternatives if the line must be built: Running the line underground through the Marcy South corridor or running it through the Thruway corridor. However, an administrative law judge has ruled out the Thruway option.

The New York Power Authority has suggested that the existing Marcy South AC line could be re-cabled with a DC line, which would increase capacity and eliminate the need for NYRI, according to Troy Bystrom of CARI and the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition.

Several county residents spoke out against NYRI on Wednesday night, including Laurens Town Supervisor Oscar Oberkircher.

"We have to act cooperatively to fight this," he said. "This is something we have to fight together and with all of our vigor."

Several residents said Otsego County has been slow to join the fight and may have been lulled into a false sense of security because the county was not included on NYRI's primary preferred route.

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