NEW YORK (Reuters) - Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer on Friday accused the Department of Energy of turning a deaf ear to critics of a proposed 200-mile stretch of 150-foot-tall electrical towers that would cut through scenic regions of upstate New York.
The two New York Democrats expressed concern over the location of a planned DOE meeting next week for public comment on implications of a new law that allows private property to be taken by federal eminent domain for construction of electrical power lines.
The June 12 meeting will be held in Rochester, an upstate New York city that is about 130 miles from the area of the proposed power line. The line would be erected between Utica and the town of New Windsor in Orange County by a private company called New York Regional Interconnection (NYRI).
Much of the 1200-megawatt line would go up along unspoiled slopes of the Catskill Mountains and parts of the Upper Delaware River corridor that are protected under a federal wild and scenic river designation. Other parts would run through settled communities, including back yards.
“Placing this hearing over 100 miles away, in Rochester, rather than in the area that would be impacted by NYRI’s proposed route is bizarre and unfair,” Schumer, who called upon the DOE to schedule a meeting along the proposed route, said in a statement released to Reuters.
“The communities which would be directly impacted by this new policy ought to have the opportunity to express their views without the burden of a long journey,” he added.
A law approved by Congress in 2005 authorized the Department of Energy to designate National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors in regions of the country deemed by the DOE to have constraints on transmission.
The DOE in April tentatively established two such corridors — one in the Mid-Atlantic and one in the Southwest — within which the federal eminent domain powers to take private property will exist for the first time.
The agency scheduled meetings to solicit public comment in seven cities in the corridors, including San Diego and Phoenix in the Southwest corridor and New York and Rochester in the Mid-Atlantic.
Clinton said the DOE, in seeking comment about the corridors, was duty bound to hold hearings in counties within the Mid-Atlantic corridor where NYRI aims to build its power line.
“Communities up and down the proposed NYRI route are justifiably outraged that the Department of Energy has remained so unwilling to hear their concerns,” Clinton said in a statement released to Reuters. “This smacks of arrogance on the part of the Department and is extremely disappointing.”
“We need to know that the DOE hears the full strength of the opposition to this proposal,” said Clinton. She said she had made her opposition to the NYRI plan “very clear and will continue to work with all the communities concerned to fight it.”
Kevin Kolevar, director of the DOE Office of Electricity, Delivery and Energy Reliability, said Rochester was chosen for the meeting because it is within the newly designated Mid-Atlantic corridor and is an area of “congested” electrical transmission.
He said the NYRI line, despite its controversy, is “outside the scope” of the meeting’s purposes, such as in determining whether the corridor was justified.