Wednesday, December 16, 2015
In September, the state Department of Public Service released a report confirming what most New Yorkers already knew: the state's transmission infrastructure - which includes power lines and substations along the existing corridor that runs from the Mohawk Valley through the Hudson Valley - is in dire need of an upgrade.
This is a common-sense conclusion that has regrettably been opposed by an endless campaign of misinformation from organizations and individuals that have failed to disclose their personal interests. Thankfully, cooler heads are prevailing. Just this month, New York City submitted comments to the Department of Public Service in support of the proposed upgrades. Support from the city, which is in desperate need of more reliable access to power and greater resiliency, is a crucial step forward in moving New York toward alternative sources of clean energy and creating jobs.
Given the cost of real estate and density in New York City, infrastructure improvements are necessary for the city to achieve its stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and having 100 percent of its electrical load served by renewable sources in the next decade. The 2003 blackout, Superstorm Sandy and more recent outages this summer have further proven the need for a more resilient and reliable power grid.
Unfortunately, a vocal minority of interest groups, which include Scenic Hudson and the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, refuse to acknowledge the state's need for clean, affordable energy and jobs. Scenic Hudson has posted a graphic of infrastructure upgrades on social media, fabricated to misrepresent the proposed upgrades and turn the public against them. These false claims are further exacerbated by the fact that accurate information is publicly available in the Department of Public Services report, which supports new investment counter to the arguments that Scenic Hudson is making. In this same vein, the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, affiliated with Scenic Hudson, released a report by Dr. Gidon Eshel arguing against transmission upgrades. But by Eshel's own admission, he has a personal stake that calls his report's objectiveness and conclusions into question.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Services and the New York Independent System Operator, two impartial organizations, have both come out in favor of improving the state's transmission capacity, as has Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself, on many occasions. The DPS report lists a number of benefits that would come from transmission upgrades, including expanding the grid's access to renewable energy sources, in turn reducing environmental and health impacts by relying less on inefficient forms of power generation, promoting much needed job growth upstate and saving New Yorkers money in energy costs. The proposal would accomplish all of this while simultaneously maintaining the existing right of way - and which, by the way, will likely result in fewer towers than are currently standing.
That New York City now also supports the upgrades makes the case for new investment even more compelling. The noise and misinformation around the need for such investment should not delay the PSC's decision any longer. It is time to act now for the benefit of all New Yorkers.
Instead of celebrating the minimal environmental impacts the upgrades will have and paving the way for more clean energy in place of more fossil generation, opponents continue to spread false and harmful information that can potentially delay or derail the PSC's approval of upgrades. New York desperately needs an upgraded transmission system, and New Yorkers deserve to know that it can be achieved efficiently, affordably and in an environmentally friendly way.
It's time to be upfront and honest in public debates. New Yorkers deserve the truth about the need for a 21st century electric grid.
Ted Skepron is the President and Business Manager of IBEW Local 97. This piece originally appeared in City & State.