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Hounsfield exec: PSC request to kill Galloo project 'disturbing'

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After years of delays, the state Public Service Commission's staff wants the Galloo Island Wind Farm transmission line application dismissed.

In a motion filed Tuesday, the PSC's staff said the applicant, Upstate New York Power Corp., “has engaged in a series of delay tactics deliberately intended to keep the application on hold while the applicant seeks a market for its product.”

And because “the continued pendency of this proceeding is an undue burden on landowners,” the staff requested that the proceeding for the approval of a 50.6-mile transmission line connecting Galloo Island to the Fitzpatrick-Edic substation in the town of Mexico, Oswego County, “be dismissed without prejudice.” That means the application could be filed once again if the company is ready to proceed with the project.

“That's very disturbing news,” said Hounsfield town Supervisor Timothy W. Scee on Thursday. “Because in Hounsfield, 99.9 percent are in favor of having a transmission line coming through the town. We, in the town of Hounsfield, and the region in general need the wind farm.”

Earlier this year, Upstate NY Power said instead of running costly underwater transmission lines under Lake Ontario to the town of Scriba, it would rather have the lines make landfall in Hounsfield and run to National Grid's Coffeen Street substation in Watertown or make landfall in Henderson and run south. Both lines were part of the application before the PSC.

The company also floated the idea of selling power to Fort Drum after the New York Power Authority announced in 2011 that it would not purchase power from Galloo. The Army did not react publicly to that proposal.

Payments in lieu of taxes from the developer were proposed to begin at $2.14 million — with the Sackets Harbor Central School District receiving 50 percent, Jefferson County getting 35 percent and the town of Hounsfield obtaining 15 percent.

Under the PILOT proposal, Mr. Scee said Hounsfield would receive roughly $320,000 in the first year, which would cover most of the town's $380,000 tax levy. The school district would get more than $1 million and the county more than $700,000.

The extra revenue would lead not only to a huge reduction in local property taxes but also would allow for more development in the community and the surrounding region, he said.

The ruling process for the transmission line was initiated in 2009 but has been delayed several times at Upstate NY Power's request.

“Several landowners expressed their frustration with the proceeding inquiring as to how much longer the case would be allowed to remain open. Those landowners also explained that they had not and would not continue to develop or improve their properties while this proceeding was ongoing,” the PSC staff's motion reads.

Upstate NY Power, the staff said, “has not provided any additional substantive information or a schedule for reconvening the proceeding.”

PSC spokesman James Denn said there is no schedule set for the ruling.

Most recently, company President Thomas L. Hagner asked Kevin J. Casutto, state Department of Public Service administrative law judge on the case, to table the ruling for an additional six to nine months.

Because of the low price of electricity and uncertainties over whether tax credits for renewable energy projects will be extended, he said, the company's investors are hesitant to move forward.

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