WHITEHALL, N.Y. – "This is going to lower power prices, it's going to improve the environment and it's going to be done in the most environmentally friendly way we can," Transmission Developers, Inc. President and CEO Donald Jessome said.
That's the message Transmission Developers executives are pitching to the public and state officials as their proposal to build a $2 billion transmission line from Lake Champlain to New York City goes under review. The project is being referred to as the Champlain Hudson Power Express.
The Public Utilities Commission hosted a meeting in Whitehall Tuesday, where a handful of attendees expressed concerns about the proposal's environmental impact.
"This whole operation to me would seem to be a reckless endangerment of our environment," Queensbury resident Skip Stranahan said.
Since the project’s origins roughly three years ago, company executives have maintained the 333 mile line's small size and state-of-the-art technology will keep it from harming the environment, despite carrying 1,000 megawatts of power.
"It is safe for the environment, it is in the public need and you know, we just think this is a great project for the state of New York," said Jessome, who attended Tuesday’s meeting and offered a presentation to the crowd.
A recent study conducted by London Economics and commissioned by Transmission Developers found the project would likely lower New York City's utility costs by as much as $650 million per year and create at least 1,000 jobs, with that figure more than doubling during the construction phase. That’s an economic boost many around here say is needed.
"It's in terrible shape, we've lost most of our industry up here,” Whitehall Town Supervisor George Armstrong said. “Anything that would create jobs is a real bonus up here."
Yet others remain skeptical the benefits won't be evenly dispersed throughout the state, especially with the upstate region having limited access to the power the line will carry.
"I'm not against the power, I'm not against New York City, I'm not against any of those things,” Whitehall Village Mayor Peter Telisky said. “I'd just like to see it be fair for us and not put us in any peril or in any more distress than we already are."
Telisky also said he’s encouraged that Transmission Developers will have to pay local taxes on the power line.
According to Jessome, the taxes will be paid based on an assessed value of between $5 million and $6 million per mile. He also said a $117 million trust fund has been established to help benefit the local municipalities the proposed line would pass through.
Five more public meetings are scheduled throughout the state this month.
In addition to state approval, which Jessome expects to be finalized later this year, the project still needs the go ahead from the U.S. Department of Energy. Jessome hopes to have work complete by the end of 2016.