State holds hearings in Stony Point on controversial Hudson Champlain Power Express
BY MICHAEL CAHILL
The State Energy and Telecommunications Committee held a hearing Tuesday afternoon at the Stony Point Community Center seeking more information about the planned Hudson-Champlain Power Express project. Residents poured into the center, voicing their concerns over the project, including the possibility that local property could be seized by eminent domain.
The Hudson-Champlain Power Express is a project proposed by Canadian company Transmission Developers, Inc. (TDI). It calls for the construction of a 1,000-megawatt high capacity underground cable running from Lake Champlain down the Hudson River to New York City.
The power line would transport electricity generated by hydroelectric plants in Canada down to New York City and Long Island. According to TDI’s President and CEO, Donald Jessome, the project, which would come online in 2017, would lower the cost of electricity, reduce carbon emissions, and create jobs.
“The elevator pitch [of the project] is lower costs, lower emissions, paid for by the market place, merchant transmissions, all buried,” said Jessome.
Jessome, citing a study from London Economics International LLC, commissioned by TDI, predicted that the project would lower energy costs in New York by $650 million a year, stimulating the economy, while also attracted hundreds of labor jobs during the construction phase.
The problem for local residents is the power line would be buried under the Hudson for the majority of its trip from Canada, but there are several places where the line must run over land. One of those places is Stony Point. The line would come up from the Hudson near the Stony Point Lighthouse and run along the CSX Rail Road right of way. After bypassing Haverstraw Bay, it would reenter the river further south in Haverstraw or Clarkstown.
Residents fear the impact that the project might have on the town, including threatening historic sites like the Waldron Cemetery. Those in attendance were also suspicious about the claims of more jobs and lower electric bills.
At a pre-hearing press conference New York State Senator George Maziarz, chairman of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee, as well as his colleagues that represent Rockland County, Senator David Carlucci, D – Nanuet, and Senator Bill Larkin, R – New Windsor, announced their opposition to the project.
“We cannot allow this line to go forward,” said Maziarz during the press conference. According to Maziarz the project will kill jobs in New York State and negatively affect property owners and historic sites in Stony Point.
This is in addition to what Maziarz sees as the potential for explosive cost overruns. Maziarz cited findings from ConEdison that estimate the actual cost of the project could be as much as $11 billion, a big difference from $2 billion forecast by TDI.
“Its benefits are overestimated, and its costs are underestimated,” said Maziarz quoting an assessment from the New York Power Authority.
“This is a very serious serious matter,” said Larkin. “We want to help New York City, but we can’t to destroy upstate New York. We can’t destroy the jobs. “
One of the primary concerns was the feasibility of construction within the railroad’s right of way. Residents fear that perhaps TDI will resort to the use of eminent domain to obtain the land it needs for construction, if the right of way space is too small.
“Our plan is to not go through private property. I’ve had my engineers look at this for two and a half, three years, and we continue to refine that everyday. I do not want to be in private property,” said Jessome.
Jessome’s testimony, however, did not alleviate residents’ fears. Rebecca and Wellington Casscles, whose property borders the CSX railway, testified that there was no way Jessome could bury the line along the railroad without threatening their property.
Larkin and Carlucci are co-sponsors of legislation proposed by Maziarz, which would bar projects advanced by foreign energy companies from using eminent domain. The senators believe that this legislation will effectively kill off the Hudson Champlain Power Express project. “I don’t believe this can be built without eminent domain,” said Maziarz.
The dispute over the use of eminent domain was just one of many issues that came up during the course of the public hearing. For the hearing the senators were joined by New York State Assembly members Nancy Calhoune, R – Blooming Grove, and Kenith Zebrowski, D – New City.
Other speakers roundly rejected the idea of the project and called for more energy production in New York. Many questioned why the state was even going to another country for its electricity.
Tom Rumsey of New York Independent System Operators, a non-for-profit company that analyses New York’s electricity market, testified that New York does not have an energy generation problem, it has a transmission problem.
New York’s energy infrastructure has not seen significant upgrades since the 1980s. This means the system suffers from energy bottlenecks, where power and electricity generated upstate cannot get to where it is needed downstate, in the New York City/Long Island areas.
The public hearing raised perhaps more questions about the project than it answered, but the attendees were fired up and said they are ready to fight the project.
The developer, TDI will be attending at another hearing on November 7 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Stony Point Community Center to answer questions about the project.