CHPE Power Line Power Play is More than Fishy: Residents and Officials Need to Act

OP-ED BY PUBLISHER DYLAN SKRILOFF

The Champlain Hudson Power Express [CHPE] continues to move closer to reality and New York authorities continue to dangle parts of the Town of Stony Point in its path for reasons unclear.

The town seems to be a casualty of a deal struck between Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper environmental groups and the project’s corporate owners Transmission Developers, Inc. (funded by the Blackstone equity group). More on that later.

The concept behind CHPE is offensive on its face. After overregulating North Rockland’s power plants to the detriment of the local economy, CHPE promises to deliver 1,000 megawatts of Canadian hydroelectric energy to New York City via underground transmission wires, the vast majority of that electricity traveling in wires placed deep beneath the bed of the Hudson River. The job creation claims and the economic benefits of Canadian power (rather than home-grown energy) are dubious at best.

While there have been arguments for and against the project based on electricity grid strategy, we may be very well past that stage now. The remaining debate is will the Town of Stony Point relent to a disruption to its way of life in order to accommodate the project?

On September 12, the Town of Stony Point Town Board and members of the public discussed some alleged revisions to TDI’s original plan – changes the company claims were generated in response to Stony Point residents’ concerns.

In its updated proposal TDI has promised the CHPE will steer clear of Stony Point’s historic Waldron Cemetery. How utterly magnanimous of them.

It turns out that with disturbing the dead off the table, TDI planners will instead look to disturb the living, running the CHPE underneath the town’s main road and through its central business district – Liberty Drive, aka Rt. 9W. The length of Rt. 9W to be affected and the length of construction remain unknown and undetermined. Whether CHPE even has approval to change the route is unclear as well.

TDI’s recently-hired director of Community Relations Jennifer Laird-White said these changes do, in fact, address the concerns of Stony Pointers, “Since the introduction of the Champlain Hudson Power Express, communities in North Rockland have expressed concerns about the project’s permitted route through Stony Point and Haverstraw. TDI has listened to this feedback through a variety of forums and is now proposing a route modification that would relocate a portion of the transmission line under 9W.”

In addition to respecting sacred burial plots, White believes bringing the work into the heart of town will help local business and tax rolls, although neither she nor the company has explained how. “TDI believes this proposed change is responsive to the communities’ feedback and will provide new economic benefits to the local communities, generate substantial tax revenue and create construction jobs. TDI will be providing additional information in public forums regarding this modification in the coming months and looks forward to more input from the North Rockland communities.”

But Stony Point Town Board members and the general public aren’t buying the soothing words proffered by White. Board members told the Rockland County Times that TDI has not provided consistent and timely information throughout the process, now going on five years, and as of now has provided scant details regarding what kind of work on Rt. 9W might be required.

As any town resident knows, construction on the road could easily turn the town into a parking lot and dramatically impact the bottom line of local businesses.

The insult that compounds Stony Point’s CHPE-induced injury is that there has never been a real reason made public as to why the project needs to run inland in the area of Stony Point. The Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper environmental groups are credited with convincing the governor to move the lines inland at this location due to claims the Haverstraw Bay is an environmentally sensitive nesting ground for threatened species of fish.

That could make sense if the work were going to disturb the river bed, but the dredging technique used to dig these tunnels is far beneath the river bed and the bed only needs to be disturbed once every half mile or so. [Update – information currently posted on TDI’s site says the project will actually lay the line over the river bed and then push it into the dirt without dredging beneath the floor. Impact on wildlife is still negligible, as the line is measured in inches, not feet and the machine deployed is also rather small. The Haverstraw Bay is two miles wide]

The CHPE lines would scarcely disturb the feeding and nursing grounds of the local ecosystem, quite possibly not disturb them at all. For a negligible or nonexistent environmental gain, environmentalists and Governor Andrew Cuomo have chosen to mete out havoc on Stony Point’s human ecosystem instead.

The needless disturbance Cuomo and the environmentalists are forcing upon the Town of Stony Point makes one wonder if there is something else going on. Something political. Something given all the corruption allegations, not difficult to imagine.

Proponents of CHPE did their homework, realizing the greatest threat to the project were environmental organizations within the lower Hudson Valley. What they did instead was negotiate a $117 million dollar “environmental fund” and give the organizations control of it.

The negotiating team also gave in to the environmental groups’ demand that the lines run inland for the length of Haverstraw Bay. Of course the negotiations for this agreement are sealed by the NYS PSC and Rockland seems to had been left out of the process altogether.

There are serious questions about the connections the governor has to the Blackstone equity firm financing CHPE, including the fact that one of his top aides was a long-standing executive at the company. Rumors abound, even within the environmental community, about massive payoffs to supporters of the project. More recently our representatives in the legislature, Assemblymen James Skoufis and Ken Zebrowski were discovered to have been making calls on behalf of the project to local governments and organizations touting CHPE affiliate TDI’s willingness to promise cash for local concerns. That smells fishy too.

Residents should be demanding answers. They should be demanding that Governor Cuomo and Ned Sullivan [leader of Scenic Hudson] and his board cease and desist this bad policy and damaging course through one of the Hudson Valley’s most historic communities.

It is not too late for people to act. Residents and officials of Stony Point need to make one more, great push to demand that the state lay the CHPE wire through the Hudson River and not through our town’s backyward.