ONEONTA _ "Towers of Profit."
That is what one Otsego County resident called the proposed NYRI power line project during one of two state Public Service Commission public hearings in Oneonta on Tuesday.
"I am ... totally opposed to another high-power transmission line running through Otsego County," said Charles Bosco of Morris during the hearing held at Foothills Performing Arts Center. "I want to know if there are other alternative means of getting power to (New York City)."
The roughly 190-mile high-voltage transmission line proposed by New York Regional Interconnect Inc. would run from National Grid's substation in the town of Marcy to Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.'s substation in the town of New Windsor.
The primary route for the $1.6 billion project would wind through Chenango and Delaware counties. An alternate route would run alongside the existing Marcy South power line built two decades ago in Otsego and Delaware counties. Towers supporting such lines are more than 100 feet tall.
Supporters have said the line is needed to improve the state's aging power grid and reduce the threat of blackouts such as the one that struck the Northeast in 2003.
But few supporters turned out for the hearings before administrative law judges, which were dominated by area residents opposed to the project. About 40 people attended a hearing at 2 p.m., and about 25 showed up for the 7 p.m. hearing. Members of the group Stop NYRI wore anti-NYRI T-shirts and planted mock tombstones and banners in front of Foothills for the afternoon hearing.
Bonnie Seegmiller of Downsville said there is a lack of real need for the project; no guarantee of permanent jobs stemming from the project; a potential for a power rate increase in upstate New York; and an impact on the scenic beauty of the area, the environment and people's health.
"Children that live close to power lines have greater chance of developing cancer than those who live farther away," Seegmiller said. "I know that this has been 'pooh-poohed' by a lot of people, but if you look at the scientific journals, the evidence is there and the evidence is clear."
Seegmiller also said she was afraid the project, with its primary and alternate routes, is pitting region against region.
"I urge you to totally reject both the proposed and alternate projects," Seegmiller said.
Other speakers opposed to NYRI said power should be generated closer to or even in New York City rather than transmitted there from hundreds of miles away. Some suggested wind towers and solar panels on New York City buildings. Other speakers said they were wary of the use of eminent domain proceedings to take land away from residents to give to a for-profit corporation, while the fear of increased electricity costs for upstate were also cited.
Two officials with state and national veteran organizations were among the few people who spoke in favor of the NYRI project Tuesday.
One of them, Joe Franklin, chairman of the National Disabled Veterans Business Council, said his organization is partnering with NYRI to provide veterans with jobs created by the construction and operation of the power line.
"It's a very good project for the state of New York and a good project for the veterans' community," said Franklin, who is not an area resident.
Franklin said NYRI is expecting to create 300 temporary construction jobs and "scores" of permanent jobs related to the project.
NYRI is a group of investors, engineers, legal advisors, economist and environmental scientists seeking to bring electrical power from areas with abundant supply to areas of high demand, according to the group's website.
The PSC, the state regulatory agency in charge of approving power-line projects such as this, is holding 13 official public hearings in the region prior to entering the decision phase of the process. The final decision is expected in the fall of 2009.
Area PSC hearings are scheduled as follows:
Hancock, Hancock Central School; Nov. 5; forum at 6 p.m. and public hearing at 7 p.m.
Norwich, Chenango County Council for the Arts; Nov. 6; forums at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. and public hearings at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.