Feds approve Quebec-to-NY power line

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A proposed electric transmission line connecting Quebec to New York will receive a key federal approval, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  The Energy Department's decision to issue a Presidential permit to Champlain Hudson Power Express, Inc. focuses attention on the nation's international trade in electricity, and may suggest increased reliance on power imports.

Pursuant to two Executive Orders -- EO 10485 (September 9, 1953), as amended by EO 12038 (February 7, 1978) -- no electricity transmission facilities may be constructed, operated, maintained, or connected at the U.S. border without first obtaining a Presidential permit from the Department of Energy.  In 2010, Champlain Hudson Power Express, Inc. applied to DOE for a Presidential permit to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a 1,000-megawatt (MW), high-voltage direct current (HVDC) merchant electric power transmission system across the U.S./Canada border.

As currently envisioned, the Champlain Hudson Power Express project would cross the U.S./Canada border near the town of Champlain in northeastern New York State.  From there, the line would extend southward about 336 miles to the Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. Rainey substation in Queens, New York.  Notably, the aquatic portions of the transmission line would primarily be buried in sediments of Lake Champlain and the Hudson, Harlem, and East rivers, while the terrestrial portions of the line would be buried within existing roadway and railroad rights-of-way.

The Department may issue or amend a permit if it determines that the permit is in the public interest and after obtaining favorable recommendations from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense.  In making this determination, DOE considers factors including the proposed project's potential impacts on the environment and electricity reliability.

In the case of the Champlain Hudson Power Express, the Department of Energy's record of decision states that its decision to grant the Presidential permit was based on "consideration of the potential environmental impacts, impacts on the reliability of the U.S. electric power supply system under normal and contingency conditions, and the favorable recommendations of the U.S. Departments of State and Defense."  With the Presidential permit in hand, the project developer will be one step closer to success -- but additional steps remain, including both securing regulatory approvals and completing the commercial arrangements necessary for project development.

If the project is built, New York consumers may soon have increased access to electricity generated from Canadian hydropower and other resources across their northern border.  Will the U.S. soon import more power from Canada?  If so, how much, and at what cost?  How will market forces and regulatory agendas combine to affect Canadian exports of electricity to the U.S.?

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