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A portion of the proposed underwater power cable route. Image: TDI
A portion of the proposed underwater power cable route. Image: TDI

Big power line from Quebec to NYC draws fire

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Opposition appears to be growing to a big new power line that would funnel electricity from hydro dams in Quebec to consumers in New York City. The $2 billion Champlain-Hudson Power Express would bury the cable under Lake Champlain and Hudson River.

The Toronto-based company developing the project hopes to have it online by 2016. But a growing number of critics say Canadian power would edge out producers in upstate New York and cost jobs on this side of the border.

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Two years after TDI's project was proposed, leading Senate Republicans, including Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo from the North Country, have signed a letter urging state officials to reject it.

"Our state's resources should be used to create jobs in New York, rather than export them to a foreign country," the senators argued.

They argue that power from Quebec would edge out upstate energy producers and kill jobs in New York.  The project is also drawing fire from a pro-growth group called the Business Council of New York.

Heather Briccetti, who heads the organization, says she'd rather see New Yorkers use power from coal-fired plants in western New York or from new natural gas fields developed in the Marcellus Shale region.

"We have a lot of members who are very concerned about the proposal," Briccetti said, acknowledging that her group includes companies that operate power plants in New York.

"What it does is highlight the need for some thinking for how we can find in-state generation, low-cost power."

Don Jessome heads TDI, the Toronto-based company that wants to build the line.

Capitol Pressroom host Susan Arbetter asked him on Tuesday about opposition to the project, including questions raised by Sen. George Maziarz, head of the Senate's energy committee.

So what’s your take on this letter that Sen. Maziarz sent to Gov. Cuomo?

We feel the record is very strong for this case, for this project. As you look over the last two years, all the facts that have been developed continue to show that this project is just a great project for the state of new York, it has great job creation through lower energy costs, the energy costs are approximately $650 million per year, there’s no impact.

There are some questions about the costs to some of the upstate communities that host these coal fired power plants that don’t want to be left out.

Sure, so we’ve done extensive studies as to whether or not any of the other power plants in the state of New York would be impacted with respect to shutting down early, etc., and our studies continue to show that that just isn’t the case. This is really, the energy will flow into New York City, Manhattan, Long Island, Westchester, up to approximately the Capitol District region. And once past that it’s kind of the ripple in the pond, the farther you get from where the rock hits the pond the ripple effect is much smaller. So the impacts beyond the Capitol District region are negligible at best, so this is really about lowering costs in the most congested market in the US at this time.

Do you have the support of the governor or not?

We field with the governor’s energy highway, and we look forward to seeing where that comes out here shortly.

Governor Cuomo introduced a plan to improve power supplies and lower electricity costs in New York during his state of the state address last March.

It's still unclear how much money will go to his energy highway initiative, and which projects will win funding.

If it's built, TDI's electricity line would funnel roughly 1000 megawatts of power to consumers downstate. Opponents of the Champlain-Hudson project hope to replace hydro power with electricity generated by coal-fired plants in western New York and with natural gas generated from a new hydrofracking industry in central New York.


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