Friday, January 17, 2014

Hudson and the Power Lines

Pam Kline, founder of Farmers and Families of Livingston, made a presentation to the Common Council Economic Development Committee last night. Her goal was to get the Council to pass a resolution opposing the proposed expansion high voltage power lines through Columbia and Dutchess counties and acquisition of additional land by eminent domain.

In describing the situation, Kline said there was an excess of cheap electricity in upstate New York that people wanted to get downstate to New York City. She asserted that the proposed "energy superhighway" would not benefit anyone in upstate New York. 

Four different energy suppliers have proposed four different routes--three of which would pass through Columbia County. Kline warned that these proposals involve widening the right-of-way by 125 to 160 feet, requiring that farmland and people's houses be seized by eminent domain. The technology being proposed, Kline said, is virtually unchanged from what existed in the 1930s when the power lines were originally installed. Only the fourth proposal, the one from Boundless Energy involves new technology--using composite wires on existing towers. One problem with that, it seems, is that the existing lines are owned by Central Hudson.

Kline called upon the Common Council and the mayor to draft a resolution asking the Public Service Commission to investigate alternative measures and opposing eminent domain. The fates of the City of Hudson and the rural communities that surround it, she said, were intertwined. Above-ground towers would negatively impact real estate values.

Kline had provided the committee with a model resolution, and Council president Don Moore, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, wanted to know how that resolution "tracked with" the resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors. (Among other things, the language in the Board of Supervisors' resolution was altered to eliminate the word oppose.) Mayor William Hallenbeck, who was in the audience, wanted to know how the Hudson supervisors had voted on the resolution. (The resolution passed unanimously in December.)

In addition to the Board of Supervisors, the town boards of Livingston, Claverack, Stockport, and Stuyvesant have passed resolutions calling for alternatives that do not "decrease forest cover and wetlands, reduce agricultural production, disturb historic homes and properties, disrupt the bucolic nature of the towns, and negatively impact tourism." Similar resolutions have been passed by the town boards in the Dutchess County towns through which the power lines would pass: Milan, Clinton, and Pleasant Valley. The organizations who are allies in opposing the expansion of the power lines are Scenic Hudson, The Olana Partnership, Omega Institute, Winnekee Land Trust, Dutchess Land Trust, and the Preservation League of New York State.

1 comment:

  1. From the listed terms of the most effected municipalities, there's no contradiction between the opposition most feel who are in the way of the proposals and a conditional acceptance of the overall plan, only with the bar set extremely high.

    Conversely in Hudson, by not "opposing" a project with the potential to restore our 19th century view to the Catskills, we're not thereby undermining our friends in the county.

    As these other municipalities have shown in their various resolutions, advancing conditions isn't automatically tantamount to treachery.

    The improvement for Hudson is described in the proposal by NextEra Transmission, to submerge the lines beneath the river which have already marred our view for nearly three quarters of a century.

    In Hudson we should be wearing T-shirts demanding that the transmission lines be submerged. If the backs of the same shirts demand that such lines be buried everywhere else (or everywhere practicable), people may wear them proudly without fear of contradiction.

    The purpose of the T-shirts? To make sure that the Common Council and Mayor Hallenbeck get to hear our persuasive arguments.

    The public had no say at all when the initial Athens-to-Mt. Merino towers were constructed. What a travesty to be indifferent now that we're being invited to weigh in on their removal.