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This bill would establish a streamlined procedure for the reconstruction of existing electric transmission lines in existing rights-of-way with facilities that would increase the transfer capability of such lines. This expedited process would also protect the public interest by requiring an appropriate level of review, including environmental review, of proposed transmission improvements, as well as public notice of, and public hearing comments on, such projects. The bill in no way limits the discretionary authority of the Public Service Commission (PSC) with regard to their review of transmission siting proceedings.
The Northeast Blackout of August 2003, though not caused by any factors within New York State, raised the awareness of the need to upgrade New York's electric and gas transmission infrastructure. Transmission constraints not only result in expensive, ongoing congestion costs, but also inhibit the ability of the system to support the operation of an efficient, economic wholesale electricity market. According to the New York Independent System Operator (ISO), transmission bottlenecks cost New Yorkers approximately $900 million annually from 1999 through 2002. It is evident that improvements to New York's transmission infrastructure have not kept pace with increases in electricity demand and load growth.
The current review and approval process for Article VII proceedings can be lengthy, as there is no statutory deadline for a decision on the application. While various projects, such as those proposing the construction of major new transmission facilities in new rights-of-way, may require a full Article VII review, others, such as the reconductoring of an existing line (the replacement of existing transmission line conductors with higher capacity conductors) to improve transfer capability, are better suited to a more streamlined review process.
This proposal would retain many of the current requirements for Article VII applications as well as the findings and determinations to be made by the PSC. Also retained is an environmental review process for such streamlined proceedings.
For the abovementioned reasons, The Business Council strongly supports passage of S.3036.