Power line opposition sees Court of Appeals ruling as victory

RICHMOND, Va. – Opponents of a high-voltage electric transmission line which could bisect seven Chenango County townships along its 190-mile proposed route are celebrating a recent federal appeals court ruling.

The decision, issued this week by the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, states that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does not have the authority to intercede when a state commission denies a permit for a proposed energy project.

“This is a big win,” said Chenango County Director of Planning Donna M. Jones, who acts as the local representative for Communities Against Regional Interconnect. CARI, a coalition of seven upstate counties and 5 community interest groups formed to fight the project, was a petitioner in the case, along with the New York State Public Service Commission.

The central issue in the petition was FERC’s interpretation of the Federal Power Act, which allows the agency to override a state commission’s decision in order to approve projects located in designated national interest energy transmission corridors.

According to the statute, FERC has the authority to override a state’s authority to issue permits for construction only under specific circumstances, one of which is if the state has “withheld approval for more than one year after the filing of an application.” FERC’s interpretation of this phrase has expanded it’s meaning to include not only instances when approval has been withheld, but also when the state agency has denied a permit.

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