The Blackstone transmission corridor is not in the public interest

To the Editor:
I urge New Yorkers to call on Governor Kathy Hochul, the state Energy Research and Development Authority, and the state Public Service Commission, to not contract with Hydro Quebec. The proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express Blackstone transmission corridor is not in the public interest.

During September, Governor Hochul announced a NYSERDA recommendation for two selected bids to supply electricity in New York: the New York Power Authority Clean Path proposal and CHPE.   Contracts to be drafted will be subject to public scrutiny and public hearings. New Yorkers will have additional opportunities to oppose CHPE and support renewables made in New York.

CHPE is a proposed transmission corridor (powerline) that would traverse 340 miles of eastern New York from the Quebec border to Queens in New York City with a terrestrial section in Albany County.

The new governor made her announcement during a Climate Week event in New York City while falsely asserting CHPE would be clean energy despite vast scientific and historical evidence to the contrary. The North American Megadam Resistance Alliance website contains many reports about the considerable damage hydroelectric development causes in Canada and worldwide.

CHPE has generated opposition in Quebec and Labrador from native peoples due to decades of past, ongoing, and irreversible environmental, health, social and cultural damages from giant river-destroying power stations, flooded valleys, enormous reservoirs of polluted water, and fears CHPE construction would stimulate additional devastation.

CHPE would perpetuate the myth that all hydroelectricity is clean, safe, and renewable. New York State already is an accessory to Canada’s longstanding natural-resource wars on indigenous First Nations, their lands, waters, traditions, and future.

Reservoirs behind dams flood entire river valleys. Mercury stored in submerged rocks is transformed into toxic methylmercury that kills fish, other aquatic life, and ruins human health. Flooded vegetation can no longer remove carbon from the atmosphere. It also releases methane and carbon into the water and air.

To meet fluctuating electricity demands, reservoir water levels sometimes quickly fall, creating dead zones where life cannot flourish, and sometimes not survive. Thus, the giant reservoirs — some much larger than Albany County — have  large, negative, and unquantified climate and other impacts.

CHPE would also damage the Hudson River. About 100 miles and 200,000 cubic yards of sediment  would be dredged for shallow burial of two cables. Sediment poisons would be dislodged into the water, damaging aquatic life and polluting drinking water for downstate residents. Ship anchors could snag on the cables.

Three much better alternatives to CHPE are to vastly increase the efficiency of buildings, thus permanently reducing their energy use; install solar equipment atop some of the many flat-topped buildings in New York City; and construct offshore wind turbines.

These safer alternatives would keep the wealth of New York State and New York City circulating within New York, employ tens of thousands of New York workers, be more resilient, and eliminate the “need” for electricity transmission lines from power stations many hundreds to more than 1,000 miles away in Canada.

It is unfortunate the state government is choosing to lie about the supposed benefits of CHPE and its many defects. The governor asserts she is sensitive to the needs of environmental justice communities here in New York; she should apply the same standard to marginalized and often-abused environmental justice communities north of the border.

Earlier this year, and without holding public hearings, the PSC approved an increase in CHPE capacity from one-billion to 1.25 billion watts. The PSC is now considering an additional amendment (change) to reconfigure the Queens site to accommodate the increased capacity.

In this era of rapidly escalating climate change and enormous numbers of species going extinct, we should preserve as much of the natural world as possible in as pristine a condition as we can. Destroying rivers in Canada and unnecessarily further damaging the Hudson River, are counterproductive to retaining a planet all life can thrive on in the coming decades and centuries.

On Nov. 9, over 340 organizations from 72 nations delivered a declaration to the COP-26 in Glasgow, calling upon nations to “reject attempts by the hydropower industry to secure scarce climate funds to finance a new wave of hydropower projects. Funding hydroelectric power construction would … worsen the climate crisis by exploding methane emissions and diverting scarce climate funds away from meaningful energy and water solutions in a world that is already grappling with severe impacts of climate change.”

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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