Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ag dept brief sides with Chili farm family on substation

Posted By on Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 10:47 AM

A brief by attorneys for the State Department of Agriculture and Markets could mean a big change for a $254 million Rochester Gas and Electric project in the western half of Monroe County. 

Rochester Gas and Electric wants to tap into a New York Power Authority line that carries electricity from the Niagara Falls hydroelectric plant. And to do that, it wants to build a substation and transmission lines in Chili. Under a plan approved last year by the state Public Service Commission, the lines and the substation would be built on farmland owned by the Krenzer family.

Members of the family, which has farmed land for four generations, say they didn't find out about the project until after it was approved. They've argued that the project as approved would render about 260 acres of their 670-acre farm unusable, which, the Krenzers say, would threaten the farm's viability. 

The family successfully petitioned the PSC to reopen the case. An administrative judge is now reviewing whether to rehear and modify the approval. The State Department of Agriculture filing from July 31 recommends that the judge and the PSC change the approval so that the substation is relocated to a site on the east side of the Genesee River (the Krenzer farm is on the west side of the river).

The Ag and Markets brief says that the certified substation site and power line route "would have a much greater impact on agricultural resources than the PSC acknowledged when it granted the certificate." (Capital, a state news website, appears to broken the news about the brief.)

If the company is ordered to build the substation in a different location, it'll add at least a year to the project and millions of dollars in costs, says RG&E spokesperson Dan Hucko says. And the project is necessary to meet the electricity demands of the City of Rochester and western Monroe County towns, he says.

The Ag and Markets brief was one a few that were filed, and the administrative law judge will consider all of them, Hucko says. The PSC staff, in its brief, stands behind the commission's earlier ruling.

"It's a complex issue," Hucko says.

Hucko also says that the company is working with the Krenzers and state and federal agencies to reroute the power lines through a conservation easement. The lines were originally designed in a zigzag fashion to avoid the easement, which has a new owner willing to allow the necessary poles. But the company needs federal approval to use the easement, which it has applied for.

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