By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau
Some activists who oppose New York Regional Interconnect’s proposed power line say they will campaign against Republican presidential contender Rudolph Giuliani.
Giuliani’s law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, represents NYRI Inc., which proposes to build a $1.6 billion, 200-mile electric-transmission line from Marcy in Oneida County to New Windsor in Orange County.
Proponents of the project say it will help provide electricity to the New York City area during times of peak demand, although they acknowledge it will raise the price of wholesale electricity in upstate New York.
Opponents, who last year turned out in force for several meetings about the project, say it is unnecessary and would be an eyesore.
New York’s presidential primaries are scheduled for Feb. 5, and the idea of opposing Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, has been introduced at meetings of Stop NYRI Inc., according to the organization’s co-chairwomen, Chris Rossi and Eve Ane Shwartz.
If Giuliani were to become the GOP presidential nominee, the opposition might extend to the general election, Rossi said.
``We want to make this an issue in the presidential race, but it’s hard to connect with people who aren’t directly affected by NYRI,’’ she said. ``We’ve been thinking the best way is to emphasize that this project depends on a private corporation being able to use federal eminent-domain laws to take land.’’
Under the 2005 federal Energy Policy Act, private corporations are permitted in some situations to condemn land for their power-line projects. This power could be used well beyond upstate New York, making eminent domain a broad-based issue, she said.
Hank Nicols, former chairman of Otsego County’s Democratic Party, said he believes that the use of eminent domain by private firms could become a national issue.
``And I think Giuliani is vulnerable to that,’’ he said.
Melanie Hillis, spokeswoman for Bracewell & Giuliani, said NYRI is a client of the law firm, but she would not discuss the matter further.
When Jennifer Mastin, a spokeswoman for Giuliani’s campaign, was asked about NYRI and eminent domain, she referred to a speech Giuliani delivered Nov. 16 to the Federalist Society in Washington. Here, he said, ``We want justices who understand that taking private property from individual owners to enrich private developers just distorts entirely the meaning of the Constitution.’’
Thomas Morrone, chairman of Chenango County’s Republican Party, said he doesn’t believe that Bracewell & Giuliani’s connection to NYRI will, or should, affect Giuliani’s support in New York state.
``I’m for Giuliani; he’s our best bet to beat Hillary (Clinton),’’ said Morrone, who predicted that Giuliani will win his home state on his way to the GOP nomination.
``Realistically, NYRI is a small issue in this race, and what we think about it isn’t going to make any difference,’’ he said.
Dr. Glenn Stein of Norwich, an outspoken critic of NYRI, said the issue will affect how he votes, and he is leaning toward Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
Paul’s spokesman, Jesse Benton, said Tuesday that the congressman ``is an ardent supporter of private-property rights’’ and does not believe private firms should be able to use eminent domain to further their electric-transmission projects.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the Democratic front-runner in the presidential race, opposes the use of eminent domain in the NYRI project, according to her spokesman, Eric Bederman.
The campaign sent The Daily Star a statement from Clinton that includes the sentence: ``The senator believes that the use of federal eminent-domain authorities on this project as currently proposed will have a profoundly negative effect on regions of the state.’’
When asked by e-mail whether Clinton has taken a position on the larger question _ whether private firms should be able to use eminent-domain laws to further projects _ Bederman did not respond by 7 p.m. Tuesday.