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Diverse groups support Champlain underground power line

Diverse groups support Champlain underground power line

Numerous state agencies and some environmental groups have endorsed a $2 billion buried electric tra

Numerous state agencies and some environmental groups have endorsed a $2 billion buried electric transmission cable from Canada to New York City, providing a major boost for the proposal.

A negotiated agreement regarding the 1,000-megawatt Champlain Hudson Power Express was filed Friday with the state Public Service Commission, which must grant a key permit before the project goes forward.

“We are pleased that a diverse group of participants devoted their time and energy to studying this worthy project and voluntarily signed this agreement,” said Transmission Developers Inc. President and CEO Donald Jessome.

The agreement’s signers include the state departments of Environmental Conservation, Transportation and Agriculture and Markets; the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; the Adirondack Park Agency; and Public Service Commission staff. The cities of New York and Yonkers also signed.

The three environmental organizations that signed are Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, and New York State Council of Trout Unlimited.

The proposal by Transmission Developers Inc. of Albany calls for building a 333-mile direct current underground power line from the Canadian border to New York City. It would be buried under Lake Champlain and the Hudson River most of the way, but run under railroad rights-of-way through Saratoga, Schenectady and Albany counties.

The plan would be to purchase Canadian hydropower and transmit 1,000 megawatts — about enough power for 1 million homes — to the New York City area.

The power line was first proposed in 2009. Negotiations regarding the joint settlement have been under way since November 2010.

As part of the settlement, a $117 million environmental fund would be established in support of environmental improvement projects in the Hudson Estuary, the Harlem and East rivers, Lake Champlain and their tributaries. The money would be put up by TDI over a 35-year period.

The purpose of the fund is to protect, restore and improve aquatic habitats and fisheries resources for these water bodies, TDI said.

In a statement released by the company, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, praised the project.

“I am extremely pleased to see this innovative project achieve an important milestone and move one step closer to advancing New York’s clean energy agenda and economic development needs,” said Tonko, a former president of the state Energy Research and Development Authority with recognized expertise in energy issues.

The developer earlier this month released an economic impact study that shows an expected annual benefit of $650 million per year to consumers from lower energy costs, and creation of 2,400 new jobs in the state.

The International Brotherhood of Electric Workers has faulted the proposal, calling it an “extension cord” from Canada to New York that bypasses the rest of the state.

The project “will have a deleterious impact on energy jobs and any plans the NY investor-owned utilities have to modernize the NY transmission system,” IBEW President Theodore J. Skerpon said in statements filed late last year with the PSC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In response, Jessome said upstate power producers will be eligible to deliver power to TDI’s line in Canada, using the existing cross-border power grid.

The settlement agreement will now be reviewed by the two PSC administrative law judges hearing the application. They will make a recommendation to the full Public Service Commission.

The developers are also pursuing a federal permit required for importing power from Quebec.

Jessome said he hopes the project will receive final PSC approval later this year, and federal approval in the first part of 2013. Based on that schedule, construction would start in 2014 and power could start to be delivered in late 2016, he said.

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