Power lines in Clinton.      Margaret Wentworth / The Observer
Power lines in Clinton. Margaret Wentworth / The Observer

Hyde Park joins opponents to power line expansion

Board urges PSC to commit to protecting local natural resources

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The Hyde Park Town Board has joined the growing list of local leaders who are opposed to the state’s plans for running high-voltage power lines through Dutchess County.

The board passed a resolution at its Feb. 10 meeting against the expansion and urged the state Public Service Commission to ensure that all projects for expanding above-ground power lines be fully scoped and incorporate commitments that protect the Hudson Valley’s significant natural resources.

The move follows a strongly worded letter opposing the projects that was sent to the PSC by the Dutchess County Supervisors and Mayors Association, an organization that represents all 30 municipalities in the county.

[All the actions preceded an announcement by the state PSC on Feb. 20 that they are now looking for revised plans that eliminate the impact on eminent domain and focus solely on existing transmission corridors.]

Town Supervisor Aileen Rohr, who is also vice president of the supervisors and mayors association, brought the resolution to the board, and told them the group had passed a similar resolution requesting added research into the state’s plans.

The town’s Conservation Advisory Council chairwoman, Kerri deGroat, along with committee member Amy Hieter, presented information on the projects to the board after they attended a PSC meeting on the transmission upgrades and a meeting of the Clinton Concerned Citizens group, which also opposes the plans.

The proposals came out of a request of the Energy Highway Task Force, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012, to produce a “blueprint” to improve the state’s overall energy infrastructure and relieve congestion in the transmission of energy from upstate to downstate. The PSC then solicited proposals for constructing transmission lines with at least 1000-megawatt capacity along an existing150-mile-plus route from an Oneida County substation to either Pleasant Valley or Orange or Rockland County. But last month, PSC law judges delayed indefinitely the deadline for initial and reactive comments to the five proposals that were filed.

Of the five proposals, only one would affect residents of Hyde Park, in an area at the eastern edge of the town that includes Quaker Lane, Cary Drive, and Salt Point Turnpike.

“Governor Cuomo and the State are emphasizing the goals of eventually closing the Indian Point facility and of bringing more electrical power to the region of New York City,” Hieter told the board in explaining the intent of the “blueprint.”

And deGroat added, any upgrade would include a grid that is better able to transmit power over long distances, including alternative forms of energy, such as wind and solar energy farms.

“The way [the current grid] was designed, it was only designed for small areas…it wasn’t designed to travel long distances. [The new grid] should be designed to travel long distances so you could get from one end of the state to the next and add different sorts of energies to it instead of being so localized,” she added.

Councilwoman Emily Svenson noted that the board is in an unusual position in that such a small portion of Hyde Park is likely to be affected. She asked Councilman Ken Schneider, who represents the 4th Ward, which covers the eastern edge of town, whether he had heard from his constituents.

Schneider said he had had heard from two, one for the change and one against.

“If there is something we can do that would help those residents, that’s what we should be thinking about,” Svenson said

The association’s resolution states in part, “The Supervisors and Mayors of Dutchess County officially pledge their commitment to protecting the special and significant scenic, historic, agricultural, and natural resources pivotal to Dutchess County’s ongoing economic success and viability, and here do memorialize strong opposition to the construction or expansion of above ground transmission towers through scenic Dutchess County in the New York Hudson Valley.”

It further urges that future research into the proposals “incorporate a well-publicized commitment to protecting the Hudson Valley’s special and significant natural resources and viewsheds,” and asks that past and future impacts on property values and tax rolls by similar projects be considered and compensated for as well.

Schneider said he thought the resolution was a “not a bad one” and that the board should follow the lead of the county and the towns, cities and villages that have passed similar resolutions in recent months. Other board members appeared to agree, and the resolution was passed unanimously.

In other local developments, starting in February, the Town of Clinton will be holding an information session about the proceedings at their regular town board meeting the second Tuesday of each month. As well, a group of concerned groups in the Hudson Valley has formed a coalition called Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, which includes Dutchess County, Town of Clinton, Town of Milan, Town of Pleasant Valley, the Omega Institute, Winnakee Land Trust, the Olana Partnership, Scenic Hudson, Dutchess Land Conservancy, Preservation League of New York State, Clinton Concerned Citizens, and Farmers and Families for Livingston and Claverack.

At its Feb. 17 meeting, Milan’s town board passed a similar resolution opposing the transmission line project. Clinton’s town board passed such a resolution in November.

In its Feb. 20 announcement, the state PSC said in a news release that it had “directed administrative law judges overseeing the Alternating Current (AC) Transmission Upgrade proceeding to establish a process by which competing developers in the initiative could submit new or modified proposals that make greater use of existing transmission corridors.”

In what it called a separate action, the PSC also announced that it would develop “an expedited, 10-month review process for future transmission projects that can be built wholly within existing utility or state-owned rights-of-way.” The new process would not apply to the current proposals under consideration, however.

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