A Greene County community is split over whether to allow new power transmission projects to cut through municipalities to feed electricity to New Yorkers downstate. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s so-called “Energy Highway Blueprint” aims to raise the energy supply downstate by 1,000 megawatts to head off a possible energy shortfall in the New York City area.
There are at least four power transmission proposals that would impact the town and village of Athens. In the eyes of developers for transmission companies, the community is ideally situated near both the Hudson River and the Leeds electric substation.
Cuomo's 1,000-megawatt effort involves five proposed alternating current (AC) projects proposed by four developers; only three AC projects go near Athens. Athens Mayor Chris Pfister rues the social disruption he says has pitted villagers against one another, and against local government. "If this is gonna happen, and it's still a long way from completion, but if this is gonna happen I want to make sure that the village gets some sort of substantial benefit out of it. And that's really been my position from the beginning."
Local activists, including ex-Mayor Andrea Smallwood, are concerned over what route each of the various projects might take through the village. Their major beef is against West Point Partners, a Connecticut firm proposing a subterranean direct current (DC) project outside the 1,000-megawatt effort. "We're not necessarily against underground cables ... it's a good thing if you're in a major city or in a planned development that alrady has planned this out. We have old streets here. They're not burying our cables, we're getting nothing out of this, except for the disruption... We're very against the West Point Partners Project. The enxt most invasive alternate current project is called Next Era, and we're against that because it would create a whole new overhead transmission line. New towers, which would take more land and double up the towers that are already coming out of Leeds substation."
Chris Hocker of West Point Partners holds out an olive branch. "We absolutely pledge to work with the town and the village to find the best route that has the least impact and alleviates the most concerns. We are expecting that the project, when completed, will have quite an economic benefit for the town and village of Athens and for Greene County in general. And also for New York State, in the sense that it will help free up transmission congestion and help power flow."
Hocker stresses that once completed, the line would run from Athens to Cortland, completely underground, under water, out of sight.
The state Public service Commission is reviewing all of the proposals and responded to a request for comment by email, stating - quote - "The PSC is seeking public comment on both the West Point project and the various AC projects. No decision has been made regarding any proposed project."
Mayor Pfister takes a “wait-and-see” attitude. " People are gonna have more than ample opportunity to express their opinions. I'm going to try to continue to do what I think is the best for the village."
The Cuomo administration did not return calls for comment.