Monday, June 11, 2007

"For The Larger Good"

Last week a measure to de-fund the Department of Energy's program to establish national electric corridors was shot down in the House Appropriations committee.

The federal program that could pave the way for New York Regional Interconnect narrowly survived an attempt to strip its funding today.

By a vote of 30-35, the powerful U.S. House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment spearheaded by Rep. Maurice Hinchey that would have effectively stalled the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor program for a year. Hinchey was pushing the amendment to a $32 billion energy spending bill.

The 2005 program would allow power line developers within two special corridors in the Northeast and Southwest to appeal to the federal government for approval if state regulators say no.

Shockingly, the triggerman behind the hit just happened to represent the New York city area.

Several other members, including Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., rose to support the amendment. But they were rebuked by three lawmakers, including Rep. José Serrano, a South Bronx Democrat.

Serrano said the approval process was fair and that cities like New York needed the power.

“This may be one of those classic occasions where you tighten your belt and you say, ‘For the larger good, my trees may have a line going over it,’” he said. “‘For the larger good I may have to give up a little so that other folks may get a lot.’”

Rep. Serrano seems to have missed the spin that NYRI isn't about upstate versus downstate, since he pretty clearly thinks that's exactly what it's about. Thinking otherwise, as so many anti-NYRI activists seem to, is a naive exercise that will ultimately end with another line of electrical towers stretching from Marcy to downstate. Just ask the opponents of the Marcy South powerline. They were bamboozled in exactly the same way, and relied on the same "If we just protest enough we can stop it" logic, right up until the day towers started being built.

Powerful interests support NYRI. A failure to combat those interests, and not just the NYRI program itself, is why the anti-NYRI movement is doomed.

Update: In response to a question, I think a version of NYRI is unstoppable. I also think the current "use the railroad right of way" proposal is part of an elaborate shell game designed to distract opposition. In response to protests the interests behind NYRI will forge a "compromise" involving the use of an existing power line route. Everyone will pat themselves on the back for a job well done, the politicians get to take credit for "stopping NYRI", and the powerlines still get built in someone elses back yard. Which is exactly what I think was planned from the start.