Vermont to fight electricity grid merger

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(Host) Governor Howard Dean says the state of Vermont will actively litigate an effort by the federal government to link New England’s power grid with a similar system in New York State. Dean says the proposal will cost the region’s ratepayers more than $60 million and represents an abuse of power by federal energy officials.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Dean has asked the Vermont Public Service Board to launch an investigation into a plan to merge the operations of New England’s power system with those in New York State. The governor also wants Attorney General William Sorrell to be ready to fight the proposal in court if the PSB determines it’s not in the best interests of Vermont’s ratepayers.

Dean says the New York State power grid is in need of major repairs and if the two regional systems are combined, ratepayers in New England will be forced to help pay for the upgrade of the New York system. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission claims that it can move forward with this plan despite the objections of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Dean has a very different point of view on this issue:

(Dean) “We’ll litigate that. We’re in contact with the attorney general. I’m prepared to ask the attorney general, if the ISO is uncooperative, to ask for a stay in federal court of this merger. I think we can show irreparable harm to Vermont and New England ratepayers should this thing go through and be rammed down our throats, which is the current prediction and direction they’re heading in right now.”

(Kinzel) Dean is also working with New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen on a plan to bring more power from Hydro-Quebec into New England using transmission lines in Vermont and New Hampshire. Dean thinks the Canadian partnership makes a lot of sense:

(Dean) “They’re a great fit with us. They have a winter peak; we have a summer peak in New England. They are a huge source of energy for us already and could be more. Hydro-Quebec is going now with the assent of the Cree and the cooperation of the Cree put in another 12,000 megawatts in the next decade or so. Green power, which we want in Vermont.”

(Kinzel) Dean says it’s not clear if Vermont would have to upgrade its electrical transmission system in order to funnel additional Canadian energy to southern New England.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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