Battle over Canadian hydro power embroils NY politicians

A big fight is brewing over plans by the Canadian firm TDI to build a $2 billion power line that would feed low-cost, low-carbon hydro electricity from Quebec to consumers in New York City.

The project has drawn little opposition over the last two years.  Environmental and historic preservation groups have generally praised the design, which would lay the 1,000 megawatt power cable under the waters of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

But now upstate business groups and power generators are raising alarms about foreign competition that could edge out power generated by coal, natural gas, and hydro in New York.

Thirteen leading state Senate Republicans, including Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo, signed a letter opposing approval of — and any state subsidies for — the project.

“Our state’s resources should be used to create jobs in New York, rather than export them to a foreign country,” the senators argued.

TDI, which hopes to be on-line by 2016, has applied to be part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “energy highway” initiative, proposed during his state of the state address last March.  Company president Don Jessome told Capitol Pressroom host Susan Arbetter this week that he still hopes to be included in that effort.

TDI argues that the project would cut electricity costs by $650 million a year in New York.

Hydro power is also carbon-neutral, when compared with coal fired plants, and it doesn’t require hydro-fracturing techniques needed to develop natural has reserves in New York’s Marcellus shale region.

On the other hand, a domestic power generation industry generally creates good, high-paying jobs.

So what do you think?  Should we tap into Canada’s hydro power reserves, the same way that many groups want us to tap into that country’s big oil reserves?  Should US power firms be forced to compete with international producers?

Or is this a job killer that will stifle energy development upstate?  Comments welcome.

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15 Comments on “Battle over Canadian hydro power embroils NY politicians”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Yes and by the way, we still have coal burning power plants in NYS?
    What this could do is create some competition and provide needed power without the pollution of coal.

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  2. Pete Klein says:

    And oh, by the way, the part of No continues to be the party of No!

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  3. Peter Hahn says:

    We need cheap clean energy. The Canadians are the ones who should be complaining. Its their rivers that are getting dammed up. Im sure the republicans, if they think hard, can come up with a solution for protecting our home grown energy producers and related jobs. Seems to me we are subsidizing them already. We could still buy their more expensive energy, at least the cleaner versions.

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  4. TomL says:

    Very ironic that the Republicans in New York are attempting to block an energy source that might reduce the cost of electricity in New York State. Aren’t they trying to blame the US President for the same thing?

    Historically, for better or worse, as energy availability increases (more and cheaper sources), so too does consumption. In one form, this is called Jervon’s Paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox .

    Having cheaper power (if it is cheaper – eventually when consumption rises, so does the price) can only be a plus for poor New Yorkers, and a plus for New York businesses. As importantly, having more diverse energy sources is a good thing – more stability despite fluctuations in price and scarcity in each source.

    This is very short-sighted politics by Patty Ritchie et al., in my opinion.

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  5. PNElba says:

    We should go for it. Especially if it saves money for the wealthy.

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  6. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    I have mixed feelings on this issue as I’m all for renewable energy. However, I would rather see New York State utilize the resources that will help pay for this invested into a more modern, digital “Smart Grid” that encourages the installation of smaller, more localized energy producers via modernization of already existing dams, residential solar, bio-mass, wind, etc.

    We’ve bantered about in this forum before the tremendous potential that exists here in the North Country for a job creating, localized energy sector. It seems to me that New York should spend its money to that end instead of on a Canadian Company to bring power to the residents of New York City more cheaply. As I think more about it, I wonder if that isn’t the only driving factor in this deal. That is too say, more and cheaper energy for a part of the state that has tremendous political clout over the rest of us and all else be damned.

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  7. Mervel says:

    It’s a tough one for me.

    We pay too much for power in New York compared to the rest of the country so this may help. On the other hand this may be carbon neutral, but it is NOT environmentally neutral as these huge huge power generating dams in Quebec have done major damage to pristine eco-systems up there.

    The other issue is our own energy industry. However if New Yorker’s are not going to allow natural gas exploration and the jobs that would create anyway; than that argument does not matter as there would be nothing to protect in New York.

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  8. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    I remember reading about the IBEW speaking out against this proposed transimission line. It would seem this issue has an odd combination of bedfellows.

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  9. tootightmike says:

    Nothing is environmentally neutral except turning off you lights. If this Canadian power will save money and burn less coal, we should go for it. If it competes with natural gas and puts the frackers out of business in NY that’s a plus too. Canadian hydro power doesn’t compete with US renewables…Republicans compete with US renewables.

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  10. Larry says:

    If it’s cheap and only messes up the Canadian environment, then it sounds like all are in favor, never mind American businesses and union jobs. Nice turn-around by the liberal side.

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  11. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – American businesses (New York ones in this case) will do better with cheaper energy and there will be more union jobs. Some specific businesses will suffer maybe, and they can try to get their Representatives in Albany to do something about it.

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  12. Mervel says:

    tootight, yeah the major damage to the environment has already been done unless they are building more of those monsters up there. I mean these dams make what we have on the St. Lawrence look small, they re-organize the whole eco-system and landscape.

    Throw in the fact that New York will NEVER allow natural gas development in NYS and I think on the margin this will help northern ny business by reducing the price of power. I don’t see current job loss associated with allowing it to go forward. I am surprised somewhat, that in a state with as much poverty as Ny and a region with as much unemployment as we have up here and the need for good high paying blue collar jobs, that there is so much opposition to the oil and gas industry.

    It seems almost immoral with 11% unemployment to do that. But those running the show particularly in NY have never shown much care for the lower middle class working person.

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  13. Larry says:

    Peter,
    My point was to highlight liberal hypocrisy. They scream about preserving the environment at all costs – until it’s someone else’s environment that gets ruined. They decry the decline of American unions – until they can get a commodity cheaper from a foreign supplier. They cry about American corporations “oppressing” workers but salivate over the prospect of cheap electricity produced by foreign labor. What a deal!

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  14. Peter Hahn says:

    Yes Larry – liberal hypocracy – we are a little more “nuanced” than you give us credit for. There are not-so-subtle differences between the Keystone pipeline and this proposal.

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  15. Peter Hahn says:

    There are also a whole range of opinions on this one.

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