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Another power line power move in Washington

Senators join attempt to block NYRI ‘end run’

By FRITZ MAYER

WASHINGTON, DC — While an attempt by house members to block a proposed power line failed in early August, more powerful senators have taken up the cause. Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer have introduced legislation that would probably prevent construction of the 200-mile power line project.

The legislation, which was unveiled on August 15, would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to grant right-of-way to permit holders to power line companies only when a relevant state entity has unreasonably delayed acting on a permit for more than two years. The legislation also prevents FERC from overruling state agencies; specifically, it clarifies that if the relevant state agency denies an application for a power line within two years of the application, the power line company may not appeal to the Department of Energy to overrule the decision. As the legislation now stands, if a state agency does not act within one year, or if it issues a denial, federal agencies may overturn the state decision.

The legislation is the strongest move yet from the New York senators, who, in the past, have shown what was largely considered to be only lukewarm opposition to the New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) project due to the need to meet growing energy demands in downstate communities surrounding New York City.

Schumer said, “It’s crystal clear that the current legal arrangement is inherently flawed, leaving the state on the sidelines when it comes to determining where NYRI’s proposed route will run and how it will affect local communities.” The proposed power line would cut through eight New York counties and, depending on the final route, might cross briefly over into Pennsylvania.

In the meantime, the position of the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), which has a year to rule on the application, is that the clock has not started ticking on the timetable because there is not yet a complete application. Portions of the application, such as a detailed visual impact survey, have not yet been submitted by NYRI.

NYRI officials, who first applied for the license in May 2006, have previously said that all relevant documents for the $1.6 billion project would be submitted to the PSC by June 2007. But last month, company officials said the complexity of the documents, specifically the visual impact survey, were such that more time was needed to complete them.

An NYRI official told reporters that the survey may be completed by sometime in September.

Opponents of the project, however, have speculated that company executives are dragging their feet on the matter because they hope to gain approval through federal agencies rather than state agencies.

Contributed photo
Artist Armand Agresti and UDPC founder Pat Carullo collaborated on this composite, which shows a 120-degree bend in the Upper Delaware River, with towers digitally inserted along the railroad right-of-way at Lackawaxen, PA. (Click for larger version)