BY CHERYL SLAVIN
In the wake of the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) October 6 decision to issue a Presidential Permit allowing the development of the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) transmission line, elected officials from Haverstraw and Stony Point, as well as community activists, are exploring the options of what can be done next to permanently halt the progress of this massive undertaking.
Aside from concerns about the impact this 1000 megawatt direct line from Quebec to Queens would have on the New York State power industries that currently feed New York City—including the Bowline plant in Haverstraw—and questions about the veracity of claims that the line would produce jobs and rateables for the municipalities it will run through, North Rockland residents have a special concern about the route of the line currently projected to pass through some of the most sensitive and valuable properties in Stony Point and Haverstraw.
Most of the CHPE line is slated to run underwater, down the Hudson River and through the Harlem River to its terminus in Queens. However, under pressure from several local environmental groups to avoid disturbing Haverstraw Bay, the line was rerouted to come through land just north of Stony Point and enter the river again just south of Haverstraw.
This route takes the line directly through Stony Point’s and Haverstraw’s waterfronts, including several marina properties, as well as through the Stony Point Battle Field, the Waldron Cemetery and the backyards of numerous private homes. Yet, regardless of massive outcry from property owners, elected officials, union memberships and other affected parties, the DOE did not find that the construction and maintenance of the CHPE line would have any severe lasting environmental or economic impact on the affected areas, leading to approval of the Presidential permit.
In the face of this setback community activist Susan Filgueras, along with the help of Annie Wilson of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Program, has come up with a draft resolution to revoke the Presidential Permit which she has sent to all the local municipalities as well as the county, urging the DOE to reconsider its decision. At the most recent Stony Point Board meeting Filgueras presented her proposed resolution and strongly requested that the Board sign on and persuade other municipalities as well. Filgueras has also been reaching out to numerous environmental law firms in the hopes of getting one to provide legal assistance pro bono.
Stony Point Supervisor Geoff Finn states that he has received Filgueras’s resolution and has passed it along to legal counsel for assessment. He notes that the town still stands firmly opposed to CHPE coming through Stony Point land, and states that the Board has been consulting with counsel to come up with available options for fighting. Among other choices the Board is considering a lawsuit, but must also ensure that the Town has legal standing to sue and can afford to pay for it.
Stony Point Councilman Tom Basile has gone on record previously that he would support using legal means if necessary to fight CHPE’s terrestrial route through Stony Point. He also is interested in considering Filgueras’s resolution, but he cautions that the municipalities and residents must devise a multi-faceted strategy to stall or force the power line back into the river.
He is hopeful that a town and county task force can be developed that would, together with residents and hopefully pro bono legal counsel, consider options and costs. He notes that any lawsuit will be complex and much due diligence is needed to determine whether it could be successful.
Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips is also heavily concerned about the impact of CHPE on both the local economy and property values. Haverstraw is the location of the last remaining operating power plant in Rockland County.
Although the value of the Bowline plant has severely diminished over the past decade, and it is currently underutilized, it is still capable of producing significant amounts of energy to be sold to New York City. The advent of CHPE, however, would permanently reduce the need for Bowline’s output, as well as that of Indian Point in Westchester and the other local plants near Newburgh.
The tax revenue from Bowline is already a fraction of what it once was; with CHPE, it could be reduced to nothing. Phillips would rather see New York State invest in new generating stations within its own borders rather than seek sources in other states and countries. In the meantime, the Town of Haverstraw will write to U.S. senators and congressmen in opposition to CHPE, and that will continue to look for ways to fight.