04.07.09

IN WAKE OF NYRI'S DEMISE:SCHUMER: "THERE WILL NOT BE ANOTHER NYRI" - ANNOUNCES NEW CAMPAIGN TO GIVE STATES VETO POWER OVER TRANSMISSION LINES

Schumer's Plan Would Prevent The Federal Government From Overriding Local Concerns When Planning A New Transmission GridWill Give States Last Word, Require Community Input And Establish A Strong Preference For Using Existing Rights Of WaySchumer: We Must Not Let Companies Like Regional Interconnect Unthinkingly Damage Vibrant Upstate Communities

In the wake of NYRI's defeat, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announcedhis plan to ensure that power companies listen to local communities when drafting routes for future transmission lines.  Schumer's plan will prevent the Federal Energy Regulator Commission (FERC) from overriding New York State's approval process for new transmission lines and prevent companies, such as NYRI from running roughshod through houses, parks, scenic vistas, towns and villages across the state.  It will also prevent future initiatives from providing the federal government with the authority to unilaterally designate transmission corridors, and will strongly promote existing rights of way, such as the New York State Thruway, for any future project.
 
"We have defeated NYRI, which posed the most immediate threat to communities across upstate New York," said Schumer.  "Now it's time to ensure that big power companies and Washington bureaucrats don't dominate decisions over future transmission lines. States and communities must have an equal place at the table when these decisions are made."
 
As part of his campaign, Schumer will be introducing legislation to amend the EPAct 05 to give governors the power to veto any decision made by FERC regarding the sighting of transmission lines.  Currently, the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) makes the final determination as to where transmission lines are constructed, but the decision falls to FERC if the PSC does not act on a power company's application within a year of receiving it.  Schumer's legislation would allow the state to veto any determination that FERC makes, preventing transmission companies from doing an end run around local communities.  The governor will have this power regardless of what circumstance brings it before FERC.  The legislation also clarifies when the year long period begins, making sure that the state has the full amount of time allotted under law to make a decision. 
 
Under current law, if the PSC does not act within a year on an application to site transmission lines, a power company can ask FERC for a decision.  Last month, the courts plugged one loophole when it ruled that a PSC decision to turn down an application did not amount to "inaction" on the part of the commission.  Schumer's legislation goes further, allowing governors to overrule any determination made by FERC, even if the PSC is not able to make a decision within the allotted year.  Schumer noted that these applications are complex, and soliciting community input and completing a thorough investigation often takes more than a year. 
 
Schumer also vowed to defeat any proposed legislation that allows FERC to exercise the power of eminent domain within New York State without approval from the governor or other state officials.  Currently pending bills would allow the federal government to exercise this authority in locations that are designated "renewable energy zones."  Schumer noted that this approach may make sense in the American MidWest and West where there are large swaths of uninhabited land, but it would be destructive in the densely populated North East.  Currently New York State does not have enough renewable power to qualify as a renewable energy zone, and Schumer said he will amend this bill to ensure that local communities and state governors have veto power over the location of any instate transmission lines.  This will protect New York's rights to determine the location of instate power lines, even as its ability to generate renewable energy grows. 
 
"The bottom line is there will be no situation in which transmission lines will be sited without hearings at the local level and the governor's approval," said Schumer

Schumer has always supported increasing the amount of power to downstate NY, but he has historically opposed NYRI's proposed building of the highvoltage power line from Marcy to Orange County as inappropriate given the route it chose.  Schumer proposed the company use the combination of burying its line and using existing rightsofway, like the NY Thruway. In July 2007, after NYRI announced its plan, Schumer proposed legislation that would hinder the efforts of NYRI to seek federal approval if the state Public Service Commission denied its proposed project. The legislation sought to restore the rights of states, such as New York, to maintain their more thorough siting process, without fear that FERC would step in and approve poorly designed projects.



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