IBEW Local voices opposition to Champlain Hudson Power Express

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is speaking out against the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHP).

The union’s Local 97 has 14,000 members who work at electrical generation facilities in New York, and union officials fear the 1,000 MW HVDC line will hurt job prospects in upstate New York.

“We have power generators that are closing, that are struggling to stay in business,” Philip Wilcox, business representative for the union local, told TransmissionHub. “Their generation capacity is stranded upstate because we can’t move the power downstate where the load centers are.”

The CHP project would supply energy directly to New York City, which Wilcox said represents 54% of the demand in the state. Though there’s no argument that the power is needed, Wilcox said the line “is simply an extension cord that denies anyone [else] a chance to get on.”

The project’s developer, Transmission Developers, Inc., (TDI), doesn’t see the project as barring others. “We’re 1,000 MW in a 40,000 MW system in New York State,” TDI President and CEO Don Jessome told TransmissionHub. “Any one project that’s going to help the state of New York with its energy issues is not going to preclude any other project from going forward.”

While acknowledging that the state has significant congestion issues that make it difficult to transmit power long distances, Wilcox said the CHP “offer[s] a flawed solution to [a] problem that should be addressed in-state [and] should have been addressed years ago.”

Instead, he said the focus should be on repairing and upgrading transmission lines in the state to enable in-state generators to sell their power to more distant load centers than is possible today.

“Every time a power project that imports power into the state occurs, it makes our state energy economy weaker and it makes the ability to finance our transmission upgrades more challenging,” Wilcox said.

A study issued by the Working Group for Investment in Reliable Economic Electric Systems (WIRES) in conjunction with The Brattle Group in May 2011 stated that every $1bn in U.S. transmission investment supports 13,000 full-time

Wilcox said if investor-owned utilities and agencies including the New York Power Authority, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) and the New York ISO followed through on $4bn in potential transmission upgrades in New York, that could support up to 52,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly.

The $2bn CHP project will run 330 miles, take about four years to build, and will employ approximately 200 people.

The CHP’s developer and representatives of 29 state and local agencies, municipalities, and environmental groups have been talking behind closed doors since the fall of 2010 in an effort to reach agreement over the proposed line. The developer expects an agreement to be reached and filed with the PSC by Jan. 10

While acknowledging that the CHP is funded by private developers, Wilcox said: “It’s only there because New York has neglected its own problems for so long. It’s really an anti-competitive project. It sends a signal to New York power generators who were told they’d have a chance to compete.”

“We are just one project in a very large system and we support all the efforts of all the different projects that are being put forward, whether transmission, generation, or a combination thereof,” Jessome said.

The CHP project, Jessome continued, “is bringing in environmentally positive benefits to the state, it has consumer benefits of over $500m a year, it’s going to be a union project. To us, all of those state that this is a great project for the state of New York, and it’s just one of many projects that are going to be developed over a number of years to meet both current and future energy and capacity requirements.”

This article was updated with comments obtained from the developer on Dec. 29.