Times have changed, environmental groups should now oppose CHPE

To the Editor:
Many people applauded Governor Kathy Hochul when she signed the Save the Hudson bill into law on Aug. 18. The new law will prevent the discharge of radioactive tritium from the closed Indian Point nuclear-electricity-generating station in Westchester County into the Hudson River.

One Hudson River protection group, Riverkeeper, issued a statement that read in part: “Responding to a groundswell of opposition over plans by Holtec to dump radioactive waste into the Hudson River, Governor Hochul on Friday signed legislation to halt the discharges. The community has spoken loud and clear that it is unacceptable to use the Hudson River as a dumping ground for radioactive wastes,” Riverkeeper President Tracy Brown said. “Riverkeeper stands firm in our commitment to defend the Hudson River and applauds Governor Hochul for signing the legislation into law before Holtec could proceed.”

Riverkeeper does plenty of good or excellent work to protect the Hudson River and it is great that Riverkeeper and many others have prevented any additional Indian Point radioactive waste dumping into the river. 

However,  Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, and the New York State Chapter of Trout Unlimited signed a joint proposal in 2012 with developers of the Champlain Hudson Power Express, many state agencies including the Adirondack Park Agency, and New York City that may lead to considerable damage in the next few years to the Hudson River.

The joint proposal facilitated the New York State Public Service Commission issuing its 2013 CHPE “Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need.”

When Riverkeeper signed the joint proposal a decade ago, they did so because they saw CHPE electricity as a way to replace and close the Indian Point nuclear-electricity-generating station. Indian Point should never have been built and was arguably the most dangerous machinery in the United States, located only 25 miles north of The Bronx.

Thus, to some extent, Riverkeeper’s pro-CHPE decision of 2012 made sense to them. And, happily, Indian Point is now closed and without any electricity shortage.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission corridor (powerline) would be a 339-mile, 1.25-billion-watt, high-voltage, direct-current, extension cord from Quebec to New York City. CHPE would bring Canadian electricity to New York City; much of it would originate from dams and reservoirs on destroyed rivers in Quebec and Labrador.

Large sections of CHPE would be buried under Lake Champlain, probably in violation of the “forever wild” clause in the New York State constitution.  More than 100 miles would be installed in the Hudson River.

Lengthy sections of CHPE would be buried on land in Washington, Saratoga, Schenectady, Albany, Rockland, and other counties. Construction in Washington and Saratoga has begun this year and is causing many problems, from minor to serious, for people who live along the route.

More than 100 miles of the Hudson River south of Albany would be dredged for the shallow installation of two CHPE electricity cables. Tens — perhaps hundreds — of thousands of cubic yards of river sediment would be disturbed for two V-shaped, 7-foot trenches in the river.

The Hudson River is a federal Superfund (hazardous waste) site due to the buildup of toxic pollutants in the riverbed from two centuries of industrial activity along the river and its watershed. Contaminants include PCBs, radioactive materials, heavy metals, and chemical wastes.

Dredging the river would release some of these poisons into the drinking water of residents in Ulster and Dutchess counties, damage the health of aquatic organisms, and pose a hazard to ships that navigate the river when they drop anchors.

Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, and Trout Unlimited will be seen as damaging the Hudson River if CHPE is constructed and may face a huge backlash when the public becomes more aware of CHPE or if additional lengthy electricity cable burials in the Hudson are proposed.

They can probably block CHPE if they join together, repudiate their support, withdraw from the joint proposal, and use their considerable resources to actively oppose the state government’s support of CHPE. 

They can say times have changed, we know much more about the hazards of toxic contaminants, aquatic life, hydroelectric dams and reservoirs and their greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, habitat destruction and species extinctions than a decade ago.

Alternatives such as solar and wind are much more popular despite having their own environmental externalities.

Tom Ellis


Editor’s note: In a 4-to-1 vote, the Guilderland Town Board on Aug. 4, 2020 passed a resolution that will let the Champlain Hudson Power Express Inc. run underground lines through the town to bring electric power from Canada to the New York City area.

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