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NYC Department of Environmental Protection Slow Walking Potential Deal With Delaware County Electric Cooperative to Generate Electricity Using Overflow From Catskills Reservoirs

Project Will Generate Power, Jobs and Tax Revenue for Watershed Communities And DEP; Will Use Only Overflow From Reservoirs

In Letter, Schumer Urges DEP To Stop Dragging Its Feet - Opportunities For Funding Are Being Missed As Negotiations Drag On

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today wrote to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), urging them to speed up negotiations with Delaware County Electric Cooperative (DCEC) regarding DCEC’s efforts to build hydroelectric plants to harness natural overflow at four municipal water reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains. The plants would use non-drinking water from the reservoirs’ regular releases to generate electricity, which could either be used for economic development or sold to provide revenues to DCEC’s members in Otsego, Delaware, Chenango, Sullivan and Schoharie Counties. The plants are minimal impact and will not affect the quality or quantity of drinking water.
Development of these sites have long been a goal of DCEC, and it had made significant progress in its application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) when New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) submitted a competing application to develop the same four sites. FERC accepted the City’s application in March of this year over DCEC’s due to a policy of municipal preference, a policy by which a municipality is given the first chance at development opportunities.  However, the City has since admitted it has no interest in developing hydroelectric capacity at the sites and has stated publicly that it now wants to work with DCEC to develop the hydroelectric project.  The project would not only benefit the members of DCEC, but would also generate revenues for New York City.  Unfortunately, the DEP is dragging its feet on the negotiations to transfer the development rights to DCEC, and communities that would stand to benefit from this hydroelectric project are missing out on valuable opportunities to apply for federal dollars for the project, including stimulus funding.
Today Schumer, in a personal letter, requested that the DEP kick the negotiations into high gear and cut through the red tape so a potentially lucrative opportunity is not lost.  

“It is high time to get this project moving,” said Schumer. “Both the DEP and DCEC agree on what the outcome should be, but we need for the DEP to get its act together and speed up negotiations.  Communities in the Hudson River watershed are in desperate need of jobs and tax revenue, and putting this untapped power source to use will deliver both, while protecting the purity of the City’s water supply. Developing renewable hydroelectric power in New York will help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels at a time when gas prices are back on the rise. There is simply no reason for the DEP to be stalling this excellent opportunity to produce renewable power and create jobs, so I am requesting that DEP put its nose to the grindstone, and speed up negotiations.”
 DCEC has been trying for over a year to begin developing hydroelectric capacity at four of the City’s municipal water reservoirs in the Catskills- the Schoharie, Cannonsville, Pepacton and Neversink Reservoirs. DCEC had made significant progress in the design of the project before the City decided to initiate its own proceeding to install hydroelectric capacity at the same four sites. NYC won the permit, but now admits that it does not have the desire or ability to develop these hydro facilities and has said publicly that they would like DCEC to develop the project.  Yet these promises have not translated into productive talks with DCEC, and the there is worry that if the negotiations do not speed up, DCEC will lose an historic opportunity.

The project will create 100 new construction jobs and generate between $400,000 and $800,000 a year in revenue for watershed municipalities and school districts that are members of the co-op. Since only excess water released from the reservoirs will be used to produce electricity, it will preserve the quality and quantity of the City’s water supply. Developing hydroelectric power will also ensure that DCEC can secure a stable and renewable power supply to support low electricity rates for its members and future economic development in the region.  The low cost power generated by the hydropower plants could be used to lure companies to the region, providing a major boost to the local economy.   
Residents of in the watershed have shouldered the burden of maintaining the highest quality of water to keep downstate’s drinking water supply pure -- a key component of downstate's economic engine -- with little local economic benefit in return. Residents from across the region have faced flooding issues, limitations on their capacity for economic development, and other curtailments to their quality of life as a result of the necessarily tight restrictions imposed to keep the water pure.  Today, to both ensure that upstate residents receive some reciprocal benefits from the presence of the watershed, and to help New York State in its efforts to generate an energy supply from renewable sources, Schumer urged the NYC DEP to speed up negotiations with Delaware County Electric Cooperative to develop minimal impact hydro plants that do not impact the quality or quantity of drinking water.
Schumer wrote in the letter: “The development of hydro plants that convert the release and overflow of water from these reservoirs into a clean sustainable form of energy will provide benefit to the surrounding communities, these same communities that support the watershed. The hydro plants are an innovative way to generate power from water released from these reservoirs, while protecting the high quality and quantity of drinking water supplies and making no alterations to the prescribed monitoring of these facilities already under the purview of DEP.”
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