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Canada-to-NYC power line receives environmental approval

The U.S. Department of Energy has completed its environmental review of a $2.2 billion project that will run a 330-mile electric line from Canada to New York City.

The 1,000-megawatt transmission cables will have a 5-inch diameter and run underwater or underground for the line’s entire length. The project, called the Champlain Hudson Power Express, will siphon hydro and wind-produced energy from the Canadian border to a converter station that will be built in Astoria, Queens, and feed into the Consolidated Edison system.

Transmission Developers Inc., the Albany-based company developing the project, claims the transmission line would reduce energy costs for customers by as much as $650 million per year, creating an average of 300 construction jobs over the four years it takes to build.

“We are extremely pleased that, after years of comprehensive review, the Department of Energy has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement,” TDI CEO Donald Jessome said. “We welcomed the review and dialogue it generated with federal and state agencies as well as local stakeholders.”

The power transmission line’s route through the Hudson Valley. (Click for full map)

The power transmission line’s route through the Hudson Valley. (Click for full map)

But some in the Hudson Valley remain leery of the project, which will snake out from underneath the Hudson River into Stony Point in Rockland County, near Waldron, a revolutionary war cemetery. An opposition group formed, called “Just Say No! to the Champlain Hudson Power Express,” which presented arguments during public hearings. Even though the lines won’t run through the cemetery, some residents have said the proximity showed a lack of respect for the deceased, with construction potentially disrupting the graves.

The company agreed to avoid an environmentally sensitive area of the Hudson River by running 126 miles underground upstate to Catskill, where it re-enters the river. It then comes back ashore for seven miles to bypass Haverstraw Bay. TDI agreed to establish a $117 million mitigation fund for the preservation of aquatic wildlife in the waterways as part of an agreement with environmental groups Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper. Those groups intervened in hearings last year with the state’s utilities regulator, the Public Service Commission.

Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson said the project, once modified after scrutiny, would have “negligible” adverse environmental impacts, and applauded the mitigation fund, which would be paid over 35 years and used for projects along the Hudson River, Harlem River, East River and Lake Champlain.

In a statement at the time, Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said the mitigation fund would restore and enhance river waterfronts. “With this precedent, other proposed river projects will be improved too and the river and communities along its shores stand to benefit from the successful push for stronger mitigation efforts,” he said.

During the hearings, some residents expressed fear that slight deviations in the route of the lines could mean exercising eminent domain.

Stony Point Town Supervisor Geoff Finn was quoted in a November Rockland Times article as calling the project “an extension cord.”

“We need to create our own energy, our own jobs, put everyone back to work right here,” he said at a Department of Energy public hearing, according to the Times. Finn did not immediately respond to an email from the Business Journal seeking comment.

That jobs portion continues to be an area of contention. Energy groups have said the New York market’s problem is not a lack of generation, but transporting the energy from upstate plants to downstate consumers who use the majority of New York’s power output. The energy transmitted in the Champlain project will be produced by a Canadian company, Hydro-Quebec.

Richard Thomas, executive director of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said the project was bad for New York and the U.S.

“It means lost jobs and shipping billions of dollars annually to Canada for a product – electricity – that we can more cost effectively produce here in New York,” he said. “Canada gets the jobs and the cash, and New Yorkers pay the bills.”

The funding for the project will not come from revenue from ratepayers, TDI said. The company expects the transmission line to be in service by 2017.

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About The Author

Mark Lungariello
Contributing Editor

Mark Lungariello is a contributing editor to the Westchester and Fairfield business journals. He also writes features for WAG magazine and hosts "Say Hey," which airs each Friday on New Rochelle's WVOX Radio. Lungariello graduated from Columbia Journalism School and has won New York Press Association awards as an editor, columnist and reporter.

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