How much of a role will Feds play in power line decision?

NORWICH – The federal government says it will only be supplementing a state’s authority to accept or reject a power line, although it’s given itself the power to override it.

As a stipulation of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authorized a multi-faceted final rule regarding its awaited and unprecedented jurisdiction over the energy policies of individual states. One of those facets allows FERC to step in and take-up the review of a power line project, even if an accredited and established state agency, such as the Public Service Commission in New York state, has already denied the proposal based on its regulatory and technical qualifications.

Suedeen Kelly, one of five FERC Commissioners, states she was “surprised” by the commission’s self-guided intrusion into the states’ autonomy.

“States have always had exclusive, plenary jurisdiction over transmission siting,” said Kelly, who was the lone dissenter on the Nov. 16 majority decision. “It gives states two options: either issue a permit, or we’ll do it for them. Obviously this is no choice. This is preemption.”

The final rule comes in anticipation of the 2005 Energy Act’s call for the designation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors, expected in 2007, which could engulf a chunk of southeastern New York state – an area already deemed in August to be severely congested by the U.S. Department of Energy – and leave it open to the new FERC jurisdiction. The expected corridor designation could potentially play a role in Albany-based New York Regional Interconnect Inc.’s bid to construct a 200-mile long high voltage power line from Oneida to Orange County, splitting 44 miles of Chenango County, in what the company claims is an effort to relieve downstate electricity constraints.">NYRI requested and was not granted an early corridor designation from the DOE for its proposed route, and in July its project was deemed deficient at the state level by the PST. NYRI has yet to offer the corrected deficiencies, and has not given a time frame as to when those corrections will be completed.

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