N.Y. senators back bill preventing use of eminent domain

New York state Sen. George Maziarz has introduced a bill that would prevent the use of eminent domain for companies that are seeking to import energy from outside the United States.

S. 7391 was prompted by plans for the Champlain Hudson Power Express project, according to a May 15 statement from state Sen. Patty Ritchie, who is among the bill’s supporters.

Ritchie’s office told TransmissionHub May 18 that the bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

Matt Nelligan, director of operations and public policy for Maziarz’s office, told TransmissionHub May 18 that a similar bill is set to be introduced in the state Assembly on May 21.

According to TransmissionHub data, the project is a 320-kV HVDC line, and its proposed route will start in the Richelieu River in Quebec, Canada, travel south through Lake Champlain and along railroad right of ways, and then enter the Hudson River south of Albany, N.Y.

The power will be delivered to converter stations in Yonkers, N.Y. The project, planned by Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI) will cost about $2bn, and is scheduled for completion in 2016.

“The power of eminent domain should be used to achieve public purposes that inure to the benefit of the state,” according to the bill’s memo, posted on the Senate’s website. “Transmission and generation projects that originate outside the territorial limits of the United States do not sufficiently benefit New York State and do not sufficiently encourage employment opportunities or economic development within the state.”

Such projects will discourage repowering of existing generating facilities within New York, discourage the rebuilding of existing transmission lines in the state and discourage the building of new transmission lines and generating facilities, including renewable resources, within the state.

The memo also said that construction and development of these facilities and infrastructure in the state, instead of outside the country, maximizes employment and economic development in New York and in the country.

Additionally, by importing power from outside the U.S., the country’s dependency on foreign energy imports is increased.

According to Ritchie’s statement, power companies in upstate New York fear they will not be able to compete with the new line because the state’s outdated electric transmission system is so congested that it cannot handle the power needed to satisfy downstate demand, and that the money would be better spent upgrading lines and facilities to support more electric generation inside the state.

“As a Senator who represents a region with more than 170 electric generators, I think it’s important to maximize their potential,” Ritchie said in the statement. “Right now, much of the power generated upstate can’t reach downstate customers, and the market’s potential could mean thousands of new jobs for skilled workers in our communities.”

She continued, “By upgrading transmission systems that already exist, we can take advantage of an opportunity to maximize power generation in the state and put New Yorkers back to work.”

According to Ritchie, there are 77 generating facilities in St. Lawrence County, 49 in Jefferson County and 45 in Oswego County, including three nuclear power stations. Increasing demand for electricity could help proponents of a fourth plant, her statement noted.

According to a petition posted on Maziarz’s website, if the line is allowed to go forward, the former AES Corp. (NYSE:AES) plant in Somerset, N.Y., could shut down, along with other generating stations located in Erie, Cayuga and Chautauqua counties.

Nelligan said that instead of building the line, the problem could be solved by relieving bottlenecks that exist in three areas on the transmission system around Utica, N.Y., south of Albany and west of Albany.

“That’s the preferable option because that protects New York state jobs, of which there are thousands in the generation industry upstate, that gives us more control of our energy destiny than depending on foreign sources of imported power and it also keeps prices lower for consumers,” he said.

In a May 15 statement, TDI President and CEO Donald Jessome said the “project’s abundant benefits include reducing power prices by $650m per year for New York’s consumers and the creation of thousands of new jobs in the state. The project will link clean power to downstate New York using established corridors and waterways; thus, we do not anticipate relying on eminent domain.”

The project promises to diversify supply by delivering 1,000 MW of hydro and wind generation, he said, adding, “With over $30m of private-sector capital already invested in the project, this privately financed, $2.2bn merchant line will bring economic and environmental benefits at absolutely no risk to the New York ratepayer.”

Jessome also noted that according to a London Economics study, the project will reduce energy prices for New York families and businesses by $650m every year once the line is complete. New York state regulators have also estimated that savings could be up to $720m in 2018, which is expected to be the first full year of operation. These savings, Jessome added, will create 2,400 new jobs, and while under construction, the project will create an average of 300 construction jobs and a peak of 600 jobs over four years.

The project has garnered support from business interests, environmental organizations, labor groups, local governments, state agencies, 20 members of the state’s congressional delegation and others, he said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3160 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.