NORWICH – Area residents gathered in force at the Chenango County Council of the Arts in Norwich to voice their concerns to the Public Service Commission about the proposed 190-mile electric transmission line that they feel threatens their lives, livelihood and, in some cases, their livestock.
Between the two information forums and public statement hearings, more than 50 concerned citizens spoke before the Administrative Law Judges Michelle Phillips and Jeffrey Stockholm.
Some cited facts and figures, others personal stories of the impact the proposed line will have on their families and business. They all spoke with passion and conviction and they all had the same message for the judges assigned to review New York Regional Interconnect’s Article VII application: the NYRI powerline is not needed or wanted in this area.
Village of Sherburne Mayor Bill Acee has been outspoken against the proposed project, which threatens to bisect his community.
“This is a lose-lose scenario for our friends, neighbors and upstate rate payers,” said Acee. “It is the wrong line in the wrong location and the wrong solution to New York’s energy problems.”
Todd Dreyer from the City of Norwich read a letter from Mayor Joseph Maiurano: “It cannot be overstated how devastating the power line would be ... one more nail in the coffin of our already economically depressed area.”
“This is nothing but a selfish corporate power grab designed to bring immense wealth to a few at the expense of many,” Dreyer added.
“I am opposed to this powerline,” said Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, who represents communities along the planned route through his district.
Crouch described contradictory reports from NYRI about the affect of the project on upstate electric prices as “trying to convince someone that snake oil tastes good.” He cautioned that the project could “incur the exodus of manufacturing from this area.”
Crouch quoted industry sources as he criticized the planned route as falling physically short of its goal to provide cheaper power to New York City residents. “There is a 75-mile bottleneck between the terminus and the true demand point,” he said.
Over and over again, speakers criticized the proposed powerline as bad policy and made the claim that the project was profit motivated.
“This is about money. And that money is not for us,” said Hubbardsville resident Lisa Oristian.
“The idea of this foreign company being reimbursed for this hideous intrusion is unconscionable,” said North Norwich resident Sondra Patterson.
“There is nothing environmentally friendly about NYRI,” said Dr. Glenn Stein of Norwich. “The only thing ‘green’ about NYRI is the money they plan to make for their investors, at the expense of all New Yorkers.”
Stein described his experience reading through the NYRI application, which he said was often misleading, and some cases “blatant lies.”
He said that NYRI’s idea of solving downstate energy issues with the powerline were misguided.
“NYRI sees a traffic jam on the Long Island Express Way, and wants to add extra lanes to Route 17 through the Catskills. They see congestion on the FDR and want to widen Route 12 through Norwich,” said Stein.
He compared the project to a kitchen remodel that solved a shortage of outlets with an extension line through the rest of the house, stopping just short of the actual kitchen. The analogy brought a chuckle from Stockholm, but the point was not lost.
“What we don’t need is a 190-mile long extension cord,” concluded Stein.
The idea that a private company could be granted the right of eminent domain, to condemn property needed for the project, has many residents up at arms.
Norwich Resident Perry Owen described the extensive research done by he and his wife to discover the potential impact of the proposed primary route on the area’s landowners.