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Judge recommends dismissal of Galloo Island wind farm connection request

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Citing a lack of substantive activity on the project, an administrative law judge has recommended the state Public Service Commission dismiss an application by Upstate NY Power Corp. to construct a 50-mile electric transmission line from Galloo Island on Lake Ontario to a point on the mainland.

Judge Kevin J. Casutto said in a decision issued Tuesday that the application “lacks viability at present” and that it has had a “chilling effect” on landowners and their plans for business development in the potentially affected area.

Upstate NY Power submitted its application in January 2009 as part of a plan to construct a 246-megawatt wind farm in the town of Hounsfield with an underwater transmission line that would come ashore in the Oswego County town of Mexico, where it would tie into a power substation. The project anticipated having a power-purchase agreement with the New York Power Authority, but that agreement never materialized. The company later proposed alternative transmission line routes, including a land-based route through the town of Ellisburg, prompting several Ellisburg landowners to become involved in the application process.

When Upstate NY Power was unable to secure any other power-purchase agreements, it asked the PSC in fall 2011 to hold its application in abeyance until the second quarter of 2012, at which point it believed it would have answers about any potential purchase agreement, as well as what route its transmission line would take. In April, it told the PSC that it still lacked prospects for a purchase agreement, but noted that there was an opportunity to secure an interconnection point at National Grid’s Coffeen Street substation, routing the transmission line through the town of Hounsfield.

Judge Casutto said the new proposed route “would require substantial new information.” Also, Upstate NY Power had indicated that the new proposal would depend on cooperation of third parties in the New York Independent System Operator’s queue for interconnection. It further said it might obtain a power-purchase agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, but Judge Casutto said that agreement subsequently was made with another provider.

Upstate NY Power contended, among other things, that low electrical power prices had put wind energy projects on hold nationwide and asked that it be given more time to see if circumstances changed before the PSC acted on its transmission-line application. Because of the downturn in the wind energy industry, the company, which already has invested $12 million in the Galloo Island project, said other projects ahead of it in the queue for the interconnection at the Coffeen Street substation had been abandoned, thereby allowing Upstate NY Power to have a connection.

PSC staff countered that Upstate NY Power had not provided any substantive information about the project in nearly three years and that the lack of movement was unfair to landowners in the potentially affected area. The staff also maintained there was no prospect for Upstate NY Power to obtain a power-purchase agreement.

In his decision, Judge Casutto said that the long period of inactivity on the project, as well as the fact that Upstate NY Power is no longer represented by counsel in the matter, suggests “a lack of viability in pursuing this application.” He said the company has been “afforded a great deal of time to move forward substantively on this project,” but “has not reported any progress or movement on this project in many months.” In recommending dismissal of the application, he also cited the effects the continued pendency of the action was having on property owners.

He recommended that the application be dismissed without prejudice, which gives Upstate NY Power the ability to file an updated or new application “should its circumstances change.”

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