US Department of Energy Final CHPE Environmental Impact Statement says impact to Stony Point area will be minimal, town officials disagree

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

On August 11 the United States Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (DOE)  finally issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE), after four years of investigation and public hearings. Despite strong protest from many Rockland elected officials and residents, particularly those in Stony Point where the impact would be greatest, the DOE appears to have found that constructing a 330 mile long 1000 megawatt transmission line through the Hudson River and over land through Stony Point and other parts of Rockland would not cause severe or irreparable harm. Quite a few Stony Pointers disagree.

The EIS was issued in response to the application by Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI), CHPE’s developers, for a Presidential permit necessary for the transmission line to cross the international border between Canada and the United States. Quoting the NYISO projection that even with demand reduction measures the energy needs of New York State will increase by 7 percent—and those of New York City by 9 percent—by 2022, the DOE found that conservation measures alone would not provide enough power in the long run for the city and state. The CHPE line is slated to increase the amount of power available, primarily for New York City, while allegedly reducing the total overall cost to ratepayers.

In addition to rejecting the alternatives of conservation and demand reduction, the DOE also dismissed the suggestions that New York’s needs can be better met through increasing and improving local energy output and instituting green energy measures. The DOE stated that consideration of these alternatives was not within the subject of the application for a Presidential permit.

Nor does the EIS address the local economic impact of TDI’s stated intent: “The CHPE Project power would be purchased first and displace natural gas and oil-fueled sources of electrical generation supplying the region.” Local activist Susan Filgueras, however, points out that any decrease in the local power industry would continue to reduce the tax base for the towns and villages, as well as the school district. Rateables, already reduced by the Mirant tax certiorari cases, would become even more scarce, she contends. Donald Jessome, TDI CEO responds, “Energy is a competitive market, and competition will save consumers money in the long run.”

Issues of concern for local residents also center around the portion of the line that is planned to come out of the river just north of the Stony Point Battlefield at mile point 295 and continue over land—through the CSX and Route 9W rights of way—to mile point 303, where it will enter the river again. In addition to traversing the battlefield, the route as currently proposed would take the line straight through the Waldron Revolutionary War Cemetery, as well as through private property near Beach Road. Despite vocal concerns about losing property to eminent domain, the EIS does not address that impact, stating only that New York law would apply.

The EIS also does not fully address the concerns about the battlefield and the cemetery. It states that with regard to these “cultural resources” TDI has agreed to use alternative drilling methods, including “horizontal directional drilling,” to reduce the surface impact of laying the cables. However, should that method prove ineffective, TDI would be able to use other means to lay its line including, according to Filgueras, digging up the graves. Moreover, the HDD method requires the addition of cooling stations, setting up the likelihood that the 12 by 12 buildings would be situated in or near the cemetery and the battlefield. The EIS even states outright that “operation of the cooling station at MP 296 could have noise and visual impacts on Stony Point Battlefield Historic Park.”

In addition to these concerns, Supervisor Geoff Finn notes that Stony Point has been planning to improve its waterfront for commercial and recreational purposes, as well as bring in rateables through a proposed gasification plant. Now he fears that those plans will be derailed by the implementation of CHPE. Yet, the EIS does not address this impact either.

The EIS indicates, moreover, that any effects felt by the community, whether the loss of vegetation due to construction, the noise and inconvenience, the loss of property rights, or the stirring up of PCBs in the river, would be temporary and ultimately fixable. Jessome is pleased with the results and views the EIS as a green light for CHPE to go forward. He asserts that CHPE will ultimately bring greener, lower cost electricity to southern New York, including the Hudson River Valley through a “ripple effect” radiating out from the Queens substation.

Finn, on the other hand, states that the town attorneys are reviewing the EIS in order to determine how to proceed against the plan. He is “disappointed in the result,” and says that the Board will continue to fight however it can against CHPE.

To view the EIS online, go to http://chpexpresseis.org or http://energy.gov/neap/environmental-impact-statements-eis. There is a 30 day public review period prior to the final adoption of the EIS.