BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Residents of Stony Point flocked to a special public presentation on the Champlain-Hudson Power Express energy transmission line on June 18 to ask questions and provide commentary, packing the Town Board’s meeting room and the adjacent hallway in a large show of community opposition to the highly-controversial project.
The project, which has been in planning stages since 2008, would lay out an underground transmission line between Quebec, Canada and Astoria, Queens to transmit hydro-electric energy from plants in Canada to New York City. Part of the line is set to make landfall north of the Stony Point Lighthouse before passing through Stony Point, Haverstraw and Clarkstown alongside CSX’s rail line.
According to Transmission Developers Inc. President and CEO Donald Jessome, TDI performed a “full economic analysis” independent to the Article VII proceedings, revealing that about 300 jobs would be generated directly from construction over the course of three and a half years, plus additional indirect jobs.
Jessome also stated that aside from employment boosts, significant tax revenue would be generated for localities such as Stony Point.
“We’re paying property taxes every year over the life of this project,” Jessome said. “Our estimate is approximately $20 million a year across the project. It’s about $800 thousand each year that this project is in service. We expect it to be in service for at least 40 years.”
Jessome went on to argue the transmission line would lower energy prices across the board by bringing low cost hydro power into the region, diversify New York’s fuel supply mix and bring Black Start capabilities to New York City, aiding their recovery in case of a power failure.
Critics, however, argued that considering the revenue would be divided among three school districts and three towns and that any jobs generated would be temporary and wouldn’t guarantee a long-lasting economic benefit, the $800,000 would be an unprofitable pittance for Stony Point. Suggestions were made to instead boost regional economies by ramping up statewide energy production rather than purchasing energy from Canada.
“We in Stony Point do not oppose energy for our neighbors to the south, but what we desire instead is that the electricity be generated and transmitted in-state, not out-of-country, as this will further increase our dependence on foreign energy.” Rebecca Cassles, owner of two properties on Beach Road which could be impacted by the project, explained.
President and Assistant Business Manager for Boilermakers Local Lodge Number Five Steve Ludwigson added the union’s opposition to the project, calling it “job killer” and agreeing that locally-generated jobs would serve the state’s needs better than a large transmission line which would only serve New York City.
The proposed gasification plant, which received consensus support thus far from Stony Point residents, was cited as a project which could be far more profitable to town residents, but which might be thrown into doubt by the line’s proximity to its would-be location. The sentiment among many Stony Pointers who spoke was due to the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Cuomo’s desire to please the more numerous city voters, the line’s benefit the city would surpass the needs of localities.
Stony Point’s GOP candidate for supervisor Dylan Skriloff called on the town board to redouble efforts to gain an audience with the Public Service Commission, since it appears they made the final decision to force the lines out of the water and onto land.
Town Supervisor Geoffrey Finn (D) went so far as to challenge the New York PSC’s loyalty to New York interests, joking a better name might be “the Canadian PSC” and suggested New York’s interests might not be a priority in the project. SPACE president George Potanovic echoed Finn’s sentiments, arguing the PSC did not give Stony Point any attention until relatively late in the process, and only then thanks to attention from activists.
“This decision was made out of our control because we were not a part of the decision at that time,” Potanovic said.
Objections also stemmed from the controversial and uncertain placement of the line. Just Say No! to the Champlain Hudson Power Express founder and SPACE director Susan Filgueras pointed out the line would pass close to Stony Point’s marina, residential areas, wetlands, West Haverstraw Elementary, and proposed site of desal plant in a convergence which could be highly problematic if there is a train derailment or another such accident.
Additionally, Filgueras explained the deviation zone was unspecific and would function essentially as a delineated space for the exercise of eminent domain. Hence, she argues its status as a “deviation zone” is nothing more than a semantic trick to mask its purpose.
“The deviation zone is, in actual fact, eminent domain,” Filgueras stated. “At the front of the process, the area or the land needed is identified and at that point in time, it’s put into the process. When they say ‘We’re not gonna do eminent domain,’ it’s already been presented, approved and done.”
Jessome explained alternative routes were largely unfeasible, with the protected status of Haverstraw Bay and the Hudson prohibiting placing the line in the river and the complexity of Westchester’s rail systems making construction on the other side of the river too difficult.
He also insisted the line would be placed at some point within the deviation zone where it would have the least possible impact and that the most current zone dimensions had been released, but was not specific as to where it would be or if it would require eminent domain seizures.