Arcuri rallies support for power line fight: Binghamton NY Press & Sun-Bulletin, 2/20/07

By Jim Wright

U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, told about three dozen constituents from his 11-county 24th Congressional District he hopes upstate community activists, political leaders and their constituents will write the final chapter to a power line proposal that has beleaguered citizens and communities for too long.

Arcuri held a public meeting Monday at the Norwich Fire Station to update residents on legislation that he, Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-Hurley, and John Hall, D-Dover Plains, introduced last week in the House of Representatives. The proposed bills would prevent New York Regional Interconnect from using federal eminent domain law to condemn private property along a proposed power line route that runs through portions of Oneida, Madison, Chenango, Broome and Delaware counties en route to Orange County.

"These power line route proposals are one of the most important issues facing our region, and the intent of our federal legislation is to assure New York Regional Interconnect doesn't run roughshod over the property owners with their poorly planned and ill-conceived proposal," Arcuri said.

The bill would repeal a section of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that authorizes the Department of Energy to designate national corridors and permit companies to use federal eminent domain powers. The second piece of legislation modifies a section that authorizes companies permitted to build or modify transmission lines to use federal eminent domain power and amends the section directing companies to follow state law.

Former Gov. George E. Pataki signed into law last fall an amendment to existing state law that restricts NYRI from using state eminent domain power to condemn private land.

Arcuri and Hinchey have yet to obtain Senate sponsors "It's very early yet. We still have a long way to go," Arcuri said.

"We will throw up as many roadblocks to the NYRI proposal as we can. We are prepared to fight this and any project that fails to address the concerns of upstate," said the South Utica resident, whose home is only 300 to 400 feet from the proposed route of the power line.

State Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch, R-Guilford, has called for the state and federal governments to "gang together" and put forward a strong front in opposition to the proposal. Crouch expressed concern that the project would drive up power costs and result in some industries either closing or moving out of state.

Bradd Vickers of Preston, a state Farm Bureau official, pledged the support of the organization's 500 local members, cautioning that the proposed 200-mile route would pass through 65 miles of agricultural property that "would be devastated."

Arcuri's stand gained public support Monday from environmentalist Les Roberts of Cincinnatus, who at one point last year was seeking the Democratic nod for Congress. Roberts called on political leaders to make their stands known in writing to the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Public Service Commission.

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