Power line opponents not optimistic about mediation

NYRI and opponents meet at conference

By FRITZ MAYER

ALBANY, NY — Opponents of the proposed new power line that would traverse the region have expressed doubts that the mediation process now underway will produce any agreement between themselves and the power line company.

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) began the process with a meeting in Albany on January 25, which was held to lay the ground rules about how the process will unfold.

“If the parties can voluntarily come together on certain issues, it is a more efficient way to move forward,” said state Public Service Commission spokeswoman Ann Dalton.

But according to at least two opponents, the parties are not likely to come together.

Troy Bystrom said that his group, the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition (UDPC), is being represented in the process by its legal team, and the UDPC plans to “ensure that New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) meets the strictest criteria” in conducting studies ordered by the PSC. Bystrom was not optimistic about progress. He wrote in a statement, “Although many parties are participating in mediation, it is doubtful that any sort of agreement will actually be reached due to the scope of damage this project will inflict on the cultural, environmental and economic resources of the entire region. We look at this as an opportunity to gain more information about the project.”

Mike Steiger of Upstate New York Citizens Alliance, which is also battling the power line, agreed with that assessment. He told the Utica Observer-Dispatch that while the group is participating in the mediation process, “I doubt very much that there will be any agreement.”

The issues being discussed in the mediation process involve the level of detail that will be reached in studies regarding the visual impact of the power line, its impact on threatened and endangered species, alternatives to the power line and its cumulative impact on the state and its residents.

The difference between what NYRI wants to do, and what opponents are demanding, is substantial. For instance, in the area of visual impact, NYRI would like to study six locations along the proposed 190-mile route, while opponents want a much more substantive study that would encompass the entire route.

Dalton of the PSC said the mediation effort covers only a small portion of the details that remain to be addressed in NYRI’s application process. If the various parties involved in mediation do not reach agreement, the Article X process for the citing of energy lines will move forward regardless, with the PSC determining the parameters of the studies.

In the meantime, the PSC does not have a completed application from NYRI, and the agency can’t begin to consider the merits of the project until the application is complete.