For Immediate Release
February 5, 2007
Hinchey Unveils Federal Legislation
To Stop NYRI Power Line Proposal
Introduces Three Bills To Ensure Federal Government
Won't Facilitate Power Line Project
Monticello, NY - Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today unveiled legislation he is introducing in the House that would effectively stop the New York Regional Interconnection, Inc. (NYRI) power line proposal from moving forward. The congressman is introducing three pieces of bipartisan legislation that aim to revise and amend the provisions set forth in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 in order to ensure that the federal government does not overrule local and state officials and force the NYRI project upon New York residents. Hinchey sponsored two of the bills and is an original cosponsor of the third, which is authored by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), who has a similar power line proposal pending in the congressional district which he represents. Congressman John Hall (D-NY) and Congressman Michael Arcuri (D-NY) are cosponsoring all three bills with Hinchey.
NYRI is proposing to construct a nearly 200-mile high voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission line from Oneida County to Orange County, New York. Hinchey believes the proposed project threatens the federally-protected Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River and would have serious adverse impacts on local communities along the proposed routes.
"The opposition by New York residents to NYRI's power line proposal is overwhelming. No one wants massive towers and power lines cutting through the Upper Delaware Scenic River Valley or their backyard for that matter," Hinchey said. "These bills would prevent the federal government from stepping in on behalf of NYRI and forcing New York residents to live with this power line project. The federal government should be in the business of protecting the interests of the people of New York and the entire country, not just helping power companies make huge profits."
"Our bills are an attempt to protect the environment and protect property rights from the ill conceived NYRI proposal," Hall said. "Energy companies shouldn't get special protection in federal law to put power lines wherever they want and run roughshod over property owners, community groups, environmental advocates, and state and local governments. Unfortunately, that's exactly what Congress let them do in 2005. These bills will give citizens, state and local governments much more say in what gets built in their own backyard, which is how such decisions are supposed to be made."
"Today is a turning point in the fight against NYRI. I?m glad to be here with this bipartisan group of elected officials, to announce the actions we in Congress are taking to insure that NYRI does not run roughshod over the communities and property owners who would be affected by this poorly planned and ill conceived proposal. I have worked together with Representatives Hinchey and Hall to come up with the best possible way to keep this power line from damaging our communities,? Arcuri said. ?This is an issue that is close to me on a personal level. The proposal NYRI has designated as their primary route runs just a couple hundred yards from my home in South Utica. But that?s not the only reason I support the effort to fight this project - this power line, at the admission of its own backers, will raise energy costs for the very Upstate communities that would be devastated by the construction and towers.?
The first bill Hinchey is sponsoring would outright repeal the section of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy to designate National Corridors and/or grant permits for projects in those corridors. The second bill that Hinchey is sponsoring and introducing today, the Protecting Communities from Power Line Abuse Act, would strip the ability of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to grant federal eminent domain authority to projects such as the one proposed by NYRI. That bill would in essence make it much more difficult, and probably impossible, for the NYRI proposal to proceed in the event New York State denies a permit. Even though FERC could theoretically permit the project, NYRI could not use federal powers to take private lands from unwilling sellers.
The third bill, which Hinchey is cosponsoring, is called the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor Clarification Act. The measure has many provisions, but essentially ensures that areas which are recognized for their scenic, natural, cultural, or historic values, such as the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, are protected from electric corridors. The bill helps ensure that local and state authorities have control over the final outcome and also allows for greater public input on such matters.
"Those of us introducing these bills recognize we need to act quickly in order to stop the federal government from overruling state and local objections to NYRI's project," Hinchey said. "That's why we're introducing legislation today and will be putting on a heavy press to move forward these bills and protect the quality of life for area residents. I look forward to using my new position on the House Natural Resources Committee to help advance this legislation and will be talking about it with my colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well."
The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which Hinchey opposed, included provisions to allow the federal government to overrule state decision-making powers in permitting power line proposals such as NYRI's. The Department of Energy is working towards the designation of National Corridors or National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. The Corridors would recognize areas of electric transmission congestion and allow projects proposed in those corridors to apply to the federal government for permits if they are denied by state citing authorities.
Unless action is taken in Congress, New York residents could face a situation later this year in which the U.S. Department of Energy's FERC designates part of upstate New York as a National Corridor, as NYRI has requested and petitioned. Such a designation opens the possibility that in the event New York State denies or delays the permits for the NYRI power line due to the potential impacts or other concerns, FERC could then step in and issue permits for the project. Under the Energy Policy Act, this would also allow for the use of federal powers of eminent domain to acquire private lands in order to make the project possible.
Hundreds of local businesses, community and environmental organizations, elected officials, business groups and others in the communities along the path of this proposed line have come together to organize and fight to stop the NYRI proposal. Joining Hinchey at the press conference to announce the bills were: Christopher Cunningham, Sullivan County Legislative Chairman/Communities Against Regional Interconnect (CARI); Troy Bystrom, Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition (UDPC); Nina Guenste, SayNo2NYRI; and William Douglass, Upper Delaware Council (UDC).