An upgrade of long-distance power-transmission lines in Oneida County are part of plans Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted in his three-part state of the state address to stimulate more use of non-fossil fuel energy and get it where it’s needed.
Cuomo said his administration is opening a competition for at least three projects to link hydropower or wind power generation facilities upstate to urban centers, primarily New York City, as part of his energy plan. Among them is adding capacity to a line that extends from a hydropower station on the St. Lawrence River at Massena through Marcy, and then to Orange County in the lower Hudson Valley, with an underground line another 70 miles to New York City.
The other two projects are a line of 330 miles from the northeastern corner of the state to the city, and one from Greene County in the Catskills to the city.
Cuomo also wants to build a 100-mile line from Marcy to New Scotland in Albany, a previously announced project.
““All of these projects will break the congestion, open the grid, and all of these projects will break ground this year,” Cuomo said in his Wednesday installment of his state of the state address, delivered via internet streaming from the state Capitol.
Also part of the plan to stimulate wind power are plans for a massive electricity-storage project in Franklin County, a complex of some 90 turbines off Long Island but not visible from shore, and dozens of solar-power projects, Cuomo said. He did not elaborate, but details may be in his state budget proposal due later this month.
On Thursday, Cuomo again pushed major infrastructure projects as a way to stimulate the economy and build confidence in New York residents. He focused on expanding New York City’s Penn Station, proposing expanding the Amtrak and commuter-train hub’s track capacity by 40% by acquiring a square city block to the south of the existing facility, and calling on federal aid toward existing plans for adding new train tunnels beneath the Hudson River from New Jersey.
But Cuomo also touted planned and under-construction or proposed projects upstate, including re-routing Interstate 81 and 481 in Syracuse and major highway interchanges in Buffalo, Rochester and Albany.
Cuomo earlier proposed subsidized broadband-internet service for low-income households and a series of arts and entertainment events to help support artists and organizations hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Area lawmakers’ reactions Thursday were mostly along party lines.
“Our regional economy is in a good position to benefit greatly from these green energy projects,” Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, Marcy, said in a statement Thursday. Buttenschon’s district includes the Rome and Utica area and much of central Oneida County.
“Projects like the Energy Transmission Superhighway are set to deliver clean, renewable energy across the state and align with the goals of the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. I encourage local entrepreneurs to examine how their companies can play a role in this important endeavor.”
Buttenschon also endorsed the broadband idea and arts plans but said it should also include athletics and sports. “I’ve urged the Governor to provide support for the sports industry, especially for our youth, over the coming months, as it not only impacts our youth, but aides in our state’s recovery agenda.”
Assemblyman Kenneth Blankenbush, R-117, Carthage, whose district includes much of northern and western Oneida County as well as Westmoreland and Kirkland, issued a statement focusing on state rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and Cuomo’s COIVD-related orders.
He blamed Cuomo’s centralizing vaccine distribution and initially leaving out county-level plans.
“These plans were specifically made for times like these when mass vaccination is set to occur,” Blankenbush said. “Instead, the governor wanted to centralize vaccine distribution in the executive branch and it has left local health and elected officials in a state of confusion.
“ … The best stimulus for our people is to send them back to work and lift the drastic lockdowns. I will continue to advocate for those being left behind by this governor in the new year.”
Cuomo has said vaccines were first sent to hospitals because healthcare workers were the first priority and has complained that the federal government has allotted New York just 300,000 doses a week.
Blankenbush added: “Instead of lecturing us for four days about the massive state budget he has largely created, green energy and the arts, the governor’s time could have been better spent working for the people of New York and speeding up our vaccine distribution process. The governor went as far as saying New York is the ‘progressive capital of the nation,’ which North Country and Mohawk Valley voters never want to hear.”
Separately, state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47, Rome, complained that vaccine distribution is confusing and called for legislative hearings. Groups within each eligibility segment should be prioritized, Griffo said.
“We also must make it easier for the public determine their eligibility for the vaccine and where they can go to receive it. Doing so would help to reduce the confusion, stress and consternation felt by so many,” Griffo added.
Assemblyman John Salka, R-121st Dist. of Brookfield, also complained about vaccine rollout but like Griffo and Blankenbush offered no specific proposals.
“His proposals for pop-up shows for millionaires and costly green energy initiatives are not bold or brave, they will only add to the looming $15 billion budget deficit,” Salka said.