Gov. Cuomo looks to trim timeline for N.Y. power line reviews

Source: Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014

NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo yesterday proposed a regulatory tweak to help speed along his vision for an electricity transmission superhighway in the Empire State.

During a State of the State address, the Democrat said he will push the state’s Public Service Commission to lower regulatory review of power lines from an average of two years to 10 months.

The rule, to be taken up by the PSC this year, would expedite transmission construction along existing rights of way, in an attempt to address an expected generation shortfall when and if the Indian Point nuclear plant shuts down for good.

With Indian Point possibly going offline in 2015, New York will have to find generation elsewhere and address a shortage of power lines to access upstate and Canadian sources. Cuomo said the PSC rule would “incentivize smart projects that go within existing rights of way” and save New York ratepayers up to $600 million annually.

“We still have a problem getting power from upstate to downstate,” he said. “It can take up to two years, believe it or not, to get a new transmission project approved.”

He also pledged to cut red tape to redevelop New York City’s airports — LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International — widely viewed as the worst in the United States. Both the airport and power line proposals were part of Cuomo’s bid to drop regulatory barriers in New York.

The governor did not address the subject of high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The state is still reviewing a moratorium against issuing permits for the drilling process. The review has been ongoing for more than five years.

An energy plan the state released earlier this week also did not mention fracking or assumption of revenues from such drilling.

Paul Steidler, a spokesman for the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said the streamlined transmission announcement was welcome news but unlikely to be a game-changer.

“It’s still going to be an expensive, time-consuming process,” he said of private efforts to finance and attain permits for multibillion-dollar lines. “Communities are very opposed typically to new transmission lines, especially where there are lines already in place.”

Steidler’s group, which represents chambers of commerce, labor unions and others, supports relicensing for Entergy’s Indian Point reactors. Steidler insisted the downstate region will need local base-load power in the decade ahead and should not rely on new power lines alone.

“The downstate region is going to need a lot more power in the years ahead,” he said.

Among the projects still in the regulatory review stage is the proposed 330-mile Champlain Hudson Power Express meant to connect Canadian hydropower with New York City. The $2.2 billion project has already gained state approval to cross through New York under the Hudson River and existing corridors but still has to win federal permits.