This news story about the scaling back of a massive Texas wind farm project is only the latest whiff of how the recession/decession/depression is affecting the potential for lengthy transmission lines. However, those who have been following the NYRI issue are probably already aware of being “saved by the bell” of the crappy economy.
The article also notes a drop in demand for electricity – no doubt, a decline in the building of grandiose new homes has something to do with it.
That said, NYRI is not quite dead yet. The head’s been cut off, but the body is still flopping around.
A few weeks ago, the New York Regional Interconnect finally threw in the towel on their plans for a monstrous power line running from Oneida to Orange counties. This marks the end of a three-year battle by a consortium of citizens to turn back the project. EveAnn Schwartz and Chris Rossi of Stop NYRI, the oldest and loudest anti-NYRI group, savor the victory.
I began following the anti-NYRI effort because of my interest in the unprecedented level of unity between citizens in areas of Upstate that usually have little consciousness of each other. The opponents didn’t have a lot of power, but seemed to be doing everything right, for a change. The “divide and conquer” strategy did not gain enough momentum to scatter them. NYRI seemed not to understand that New Yorkers aren’t exactly hillbillies, and that people who are both educated and financially downtrodden don’t make the easiest marks. Of course, it didn’t hurt that NYRI’s public relations were inept and that the State’s PSC application process was glacial.
It also didn’t hurt that world economy went into the toilet. All congratulations aside, that was what really killed the project. The anti-NYRI people needed a miracle to go along with their ragtag cannon-fired silverware, and they got it.
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.
Just when I think I haven’t got the energy (pardon the expression) to blog about NYRI, they makes another silly statement…
NYRI president Chris Thompson says he expects this type of “limited” opposition with any major project.
“Limited”? Just about the only thing the residents along the proposed line route haven’t done is to threaten to shoot at the pylons if they’re built.
The hearings taking place in various locations across the state are mostly a ritual. The last big hearing, when evidence is produced, is slated to take place some months from now in Albany. Mr. Thompson, who declines to come to Oneida County to be shown the areas that would be affected by the NYRI project, speaks of a “typical NIMBY response.”
This issue doesn’t have anything to do with NYRI in and of itself, but it’s something different: The Delaware County Electric Cooperative, which has 5,000 members in some of the counties that happen to affected by the proposed NYRI line, has filed an application with FERC to build new hydroelectric turbines at four Catskills reservoirs owned by New York City. The project would provide electricity for 20,000 rural homes and businesses.
So, just in case you lost your scorecard, it goes like this: NYRI wants to build a freaking huge power line across upstate New York, connecting northern generation facilities with hungry downstate energy consumers; while the DCEC wants to build turbines at reservoirs serving downstate, to provide upstate energy consumers with juice — possibly, some of the upstate energy consumers whose land value would go down and and power rates would go up because of NYRI.
The more I think about this, the more I’m really kind of glad I don’t live in or near the Catskills… New York State’s water and energy war zone.