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Growing concern over power line expansion proposal

Created: 01/26/2014 8:52 AM WNYT.com
By: Dan Bazile

There's growing concern over a proposal to expand high voltage transmission power lines that would turn parts of Columbia County into an energy highway. Governor Cuomo mentioned the project in his State of State speech earlier this month.

On Saturday morning the Churchtown Firehouse in Columbia County was packed with residents in a growing opposition against the expansion of high voltage power lines.

"We live close enough to the power lines, my daughter has expressed her concerns about sending the grandkids over," says Churchtown resident Andrew Yurista.

For many, like Andrew, these power lines already run through their backyards, their farms and near their businesses. But, part of Gov. Cuomo's New York State Energy Highway is a plan to expand those power lines. He touched on that earlier this month in his state of the state.

The lines would cut through multiple communities and through parts of Columbia County. The plan also includes widening the right of way under existing towers. The group of residents at the community meeting is made up of farmers, business owners and lawmakers who are concerned about the economic and health impacts.

The project is still in its early stages. There are three energy companies currently trying to win the bid. Will Yandik who started this fight two months ago says the biggest worry right now is eminent domain. There may be a need for additional land.

"Eminent Domain is a red line. We are not going to stand by letting our land get taken when there are often other alternatives. Eminent Domain is simply not needed," said Yandik, of Farmers and Family for Livingston.

"The commission is considering modifications to its pending upgrade proceeding, consider the new policy objective, to encourage transmission developers to design projects within the existing right-of-way," said Public Service Commissioner Pam Carter, who did not want to comment on eminent domain.

As for the residents, they say they're not opposed to more power lines. They've come up with a number of solutions they feel would be better in the long run, including underground lines.

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