Updates from the Committee on Energy

Cahill Blasts Plan for Power Line Under Hudson River
March 2, 2011

Albany – Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D- Ulster, Dutchess), Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, reiterated his strong opposition to the plan by New York City, the New York Power Authority and Hudson River Transmission Partners to construct a power line under the Hudson River. The seven mile long cable would funnel electricity from New Jersey into the city through the PJM Interconnection, the organization responsible for managing the wholesale electric grid for 13 states and the District of Columbia, noted as the dirtiest system in the United States.

“This scheme will force New Yorkers to subsidize an uneconomic transmission line that will only increase pollution generated by the toxic coal fired power plants that make up a bulk of the electricity produced in PJM,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “The potential damage to the environment and the health of our residents outweigh any of the purported benefits of this project.”

Cahill explained that much of the territory where this new source of electricity will be produced is considered upwind of New York. Electric generators operating in PJM emit more than twice the amount of carbon pollution of their counterparts in the region served by the New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO), our version of PJM. The differences in the amount of nitrogen and sulfur oxides emitted are even more pronounced.

“None of this should be surprising considering the fuel mix in the PJM region,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Any suggestion that this power is coming from renewable resources is absurd.”

Many experts have corroborated Cahill’s assessment. The PJM territory has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a source of the emissions that have resulted in the greater metropolitan region’s designation as a non-attainment zone for particulate matter and ozone. Modeling by the Department of Environmental Conservation has led its Director of the Bureau of Air Quality and Planning to conclude that the emissions resulting from the proposed transmission line would be equal to those produced by nearly two 660 megawatt coal plants. In one of his first actions since taking office Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that he has taken action to sue a major Pennsylvania electric power plant, part of the PJM system, over multiple violations of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) at the facility.

“Proponents of the power line have pointed to the lower costs of PJM electricity as a potential benefit for New Yorkers, but simply examining market prices fails to capture the true costs of coal-fired generation,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Any increase in emissions would likely contribute to further non-attainment, which in turn will significantly increase the costs New Yorkers will be forced to bear in order to ensure air quality meets federal standards. It is important to note, the DEC is powerless to regulate out of state pollution.”

The DEC only has the ability to order pollution controls on generators operating within the state, the costs associated with Clean Air Act compliance will likely fall on New York ratepayers. Moreover, the NYISO’s most recent assessment indicates no new reliability needs through 2020, making this project an unnecessary and costly burden on the City and the New York Power Authority.

“We just charged New Yorkers $250 million though the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in order to reduce our state’s carbon emissions,” noted Assemblymember Cahill. “It is outrageous that this power line will simply sneak that pollution in through the backdoor with a project we don’t even need.”

“Energy conservation and the promotion of clean renewable power had been a hallmark of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Instead of providing another lifeline to the dying coal industry, the Mayor should continue to build on his green legacy by enhancing efforts to increase production from solar, wind and other clean energy sources while continuing to develop new and innovative ways lead the nation in efficiency.”