The state agency that oversees electricity transmission has hit the pause button on a review of a controversial proposal to add new high-voltage power lines in upstate New York, pleasing local residents concerned about the eminent domain potential of a widened power corridor.
“I have run into some landowners who didn’t even know their property was on the route for the proposed power line,” said Barbara Monroe, the Milford code enforcement officer. “This will give us time to get organized.”
Last month, she organized a meeting in New Lisbon that drew some 30 people with concerns about the plans to run a new 345-kilovolt power line through Otsego and Delaware Counties.
Since then, two commissioners for the state Public Service Commission, David Prestemon and Michelle Phillips, directed that there be an indefinite postponement power of the deadline for public comment on five grid projects.
One involves a proposed project — put forward by North America Transmission — that would traverse Otsego and Delaware Counties.
State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said the delay will give local towns and residents an enhanced opportunity to make their case to the PSC.
“I see this as a positive development,” Seward said Wednesday to The Daily Star. “The PSC is sending a clear signal that they aren’t going to fast-track this.”
Seward also voiced reservations about taking power generated upstate and sending it to downstate consumers in order to help them get more affordable electric rates.
“I would like to see an economic analysis done” to determine how such efforts impact electric rates for ratepayers in upstate counties, the senator said.
The proposed line would closely parallel the existing Marcy South line. It would run from the Edic substation in Oneida County to the Fraser substation in the town of Delhi in Delaware County. In addition to running across western Otsego County, from north to south, it would also traverse portions of Oneida and Herkimer counties.
The project has also drawn the attention of several local town supervisors as well as the Otsego County Board of Representatives. The board is expected to decide this week whether it will seek intervenor status in the proceeding before the PSC.
Douglas Zamelis, a Springfield-based environmental lawyer who has been tracking the North America Transmission project, said the PSC wants to determine how an energy policy initiative articulated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month will affect the proceeding.
“The governor made a proposal for favorable treatment of transmission projects that stay within existing rights-of-way envelopes, with respect to width and height,” Zamelis said.
He pointed out that the new proposal from North America Transmission would significantly extend the width of the Marcy South corridor, creating the potential for greater impacts for landowners as well as eminent domain actions.
Zamelis said he is now working with the Otsego County Conservation Association, which has filed for party status in the PSC case.
The jockeying to add new transmission lines upstate began in 2012 when Cuomo created the Energy Highway Task Force. The goal was to map a plan for improve and stabilize the state’s energy infrastructure and relieve congestion in the transmission system sending power downstate.
Three of the proposed lines that would run through Hudson Valley communities have sparked major opposition from the residents of the towns that would be traversed.
Cuomo’s call for an accelerated review process did not extend to projects that could require the taking of private land.
The fast-track proposal would reduce to 10 months the process by which the PSC evaluates power-line projects running through existing corridors. The approval process takes about four years now.
Meanwhile, another gathering for people interested in learning more about the proposed transmission line will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at New Lisbon Town Hall, Monroe said.