Lately, in these difficult times, it is seemingly impossible to escape bad news. That’s why this week, a piece of good news in the form of New York Regional Interconnect withdrawing its application to build power lines in Central New York, is so extraordinary.
I was immediately concerned when I heard in 2006 that a private company was planning to build a high-voltage power line right through the heart of Madison and Oneida counties. These power lines would singlehandedly decimate our communities, decreasing property values, dissecting protected parklands, and increasing Upstate utility rates.
With this information in hand, like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I knew I needed to join the fight. I wrote to the Public Service Commission (PSC), attended town hall meetings, held Senate hearings, and opened a dialogue with residents.
By all accounts, it appeared to be an uphill battle.
What NYRI did not count on, and what I have been proud to be a part of, is the groundswell of activism and commitment on the part of Central New Yorkers. Organizations like Communities Against Regional Interconnect (CARI) and STOP NYRI were born out of fierce determination to preserve what makes this region so special—our communities.
Though my fellow elected officials and I took action through governmental channels, it is these grassroots organizations, formed by the fortitude of our communities, that deserve credit.
Community organizers took time away from their jobs and families to organize, to educate and to advocate. They spent their own money, when many could ill afford it, to host websites, buy signs, and hire lawyers. And they invested the most important resource of all—their hearts and souls.
At times, it seemed that, despite all of our best efforts, the project would continue. Then, one decision put a chink in the armor. One became two, three, four—and then momentum seemed to swing in our favor.
Finally, on April 3, I was notified NYRI had withdrawn its petition from the PSC. The countless hours spent fighting for our homes and our communities resulted in a victory—not just for the hundreds and hundreds of activists and affected homeowners, but for the region as a whole.
This victory is about preserving quality of life in Madison and Oneida counties, to be sure. But it is also about something bigger. It proves that together, we in Central New York are greater than the sum of our individual parts—that when confronted with a problem that threatens our way of life, we can come together to make a difference.
Senator David Valesky represents the 49th Senate District, and is Vice President Pro-Tempore of the New York State Senate.