Power down for NYRI?

It’s hard to believe, but it’s getting on to three years since the New York Regional Interconnect project, the notorious NYRI, began to face resistance across a wide swath of Upstate New York, from Utica to Orange County. There was every reason to think that a divide-and-conquer strategy would work for the company, since the geographical area was so broad and folks from Utica generally don’t rub shoulders with folks from the other side of the Catskills. But the NYRI project was being pushed by businessmen who weren’t quite the sharpest in the tool box. They underestimated the resistance that the project inspired among citizens of different political affiliations, the “geopolitics” of New York regional affairs, and just the entrenched political culture of Upstate New York that would make things difficult for anyone who didn’t have a clear “in” to navigate Albany’s dysfunction and molasses pace.

It’s much too soon to call the project “dead,” but NYRI opponents were handed a major win this week when the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) could not overrule any state’s decision on power transmission projects. NYRI is now arguing that this decision doesn’t matter because in their view, they filed their application with the PSC one year ago already, meaning that FERC has the right to decide (since allegedly PSC has not decided within a year). The PSC, however, holds that the application was only complete as of last August, meaning they still have until August to decide. So, the beat goes on. But in the meantime, the anti-NYRI coalition continues to receive funding for a prolonged fight, and there are other signs that NYRI’s investors are beginning to grow weary of determined opposition.

The deathly U.S. economy looms over everything these days. Not only must the financial downspiral be disheartening to NYRI’s investors, but it’s also slowing growth and development in the greater NYC area, which was clamoring for more and cheaper power. I’m not sure how this is really set to affect the “power imbalance” in New York State (both literal and figurative), but unless there is a slackening of resistance to the project and it becomes viewed as a job generator, I am not sure how much longer the company can continue to push their plan unless they receive special federal help.

5 thoughts on “Power down for NYRI?

  1. Josh

    Hmmm, good points. I wonder if any politician or these NYRI investors are ready to push this project as “shovel and stimulus ready”?!

    The battle of attrition between money (investors) and community (that needs jobs and money) continues…

  2. Ellen

    I doubt they could sell this as a stimulus project without federal intervention. It’s just too politically unpopular across too wide of an area. Personally, I hope the project dies. The environmental and community impact, and higher power costs (for Upstate), aren’t worth the relatively small number of jobs it would produce.

  3. mary

    We should not forget that NYRI was using the idea that wind power would be enhanced with their new transmission line.

    They will still continue to use this and maybe ask for stimulus money. They are arrogant enough to try it.

    Let’s hope the new administration does some homework on them — see Nancy Sutley, Obama’s new head of his Environmental Council in the White House. She lived in Queens and went to Cornell, then to Harvard.

  4. Ellen

    From an e-mail I got yesterday:

    “POSSIBLY GOOD NEWS: The fourth circuit appellate court also insisted that the FERC was obliged to consult with the Council on Environmental Quality CEQ when making rules. The CEQ is newly headed by Nancy Sutley (Google her) an Obama appointee who went to Cornell, lived in NY State and worked in Los Angeles on trying to make its water system both sustainable and able to grow. She sounds like a potential ally, although Obama himself is nutsy-crazy about big, federal, Soviet-scale infrastructural projects like “transmission superhighways.” Those who write to him frequently via change.org should be lobbying him to prioritize DISTRIBUTED GENERATION and ENERGY EFFICIENCY – esp. in the densely populated Northeast.”

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