Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said Thursday he has “significant questions and concerns” about a proposed high-voltage transmission line that would largely run parallel to the existing Marcy South grid cutting through Otsego and Delaware counties.
In an interview with The Daily Star, Seward said he has questions about the consequences of sending lower-cost power that’s generated upstate to the customers of downstate utilities.
“Is there going to be an impact on our costs for electricity here upstate?” Seward said. “That’s one of my concerns.”
He also questioned why more generation plants aren’t constructed closer to New York City, one of the most densely populated areas of the nation, instead of constructing utility infrastructure upstate for the power that will be used downstate.
“I don’t know it’s not more feasible to generate the power closer to where the need is,” Seward said on the day Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for slashing the amount of time it takes for the state to review proposed power-line projects that use existing utility corridors.
The senator also suggested that “there are other ways to get to New York City” beyond the route the proposed grid project would take.
Cuomo’s proposal would reduce to 10 months the process by which the state Public Service Commission evaluates power-line projects running through existing corridors. The approval process takes about four years now. But with the license for the Indian Point reactor just north of New York City set to expire in 2015, the metropolitan region is looking for other sources of electricity. The nuclear plant provides an estimated 25 percent of the power for that region.
Cuomo has called for an “energy highway” that would connect New York City to upstate sources of electricity and potentially cut costs for ratepayers in downstate communities.
His proposal for the Public Service Commission to adopt rule changes that would quicken the review process for transmission line projects in existing rights of way was endorsed by the New York State Independent System Operator.
“The governor’s New York Energy Highway Initiative provides the leadership necessary to enhance the reliability, resilience and efficiency of the transmission system,” said Stephen G. Whitley, the president of the Independent System Operator organization. “The result will improve competition across New York while enhancing the ability of renewable resources to help meet the downstate energy demands.”
The energy industry advocate also championed the faster pace for reviewing transmission line projects.
“Streamlining the regulatory review process for transmission projects is a natural extension of the power plant siting reforms approved in 2011,” Whitley said.
The proposed new Marcy project is already triggering concerns in some of the downs it would traverse, said Barbara Monroe, the environmental control officer for the town of Milford and the land-use officer for the town of Laurens.
She said a public meeting on the project will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 21 at the New Lisbon town hall. The meeting will be open to the public and citizens will be able to voice their concerns and develop strategies for addressing the project that has been proposed by a company called North America Transmission.
The 345-kilovolt Marcy South line would run from the Edic substation in Oneida County to the Fraser substation in the town of Delhi in Delaware County. According to the company, the line would be predominately located parallel to the New York Power Authority Marcy-South transmission line and traverse portions of Oneida, Herkimer, Otsego and Delaware counties.
Douglas Zamelis, a Springfield environmental lawyer who has challenged a number of energy-development projects, raised questions about the state’s push for a speedier review process for power lines.
“It’s always a concern when Albany thinks it knows better than the people who live and work out here,” Zamelis said. “There clearly appears to be an interest in Albany to usurp home rule in issues involving the transmission and generation of electricity.”
Cuomo’s proposal to cut the review time for transmission lines in existing corridors is supported by Sen. George Maziarz, R-Lockport, the powerful chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and a colleague of Seward.
“We expect action this session,” Maziarz spokesman Adam Tabelski said.
By some estimates, the proposed Marcy South project would expand the width of the existing corridor by about 150 feet.
North America Transmission projects that the new power line would cost between $250 million and $290 million to construct.