ALBANY, N.Y. -- A key lawmaker on energy policy says a company that plans to run a transmission line sending lower-cost Canadian electricity to New York City will also explore sharing that line with upstate utilities.
The new wrinkle in the mega proposal could address some of the concerns that it would block in-state producers from the lucrative New York City market, which has historically high energy costs.
"This is a very reasonable thing to do," Assembly Energy Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill said. "I'm not ready to support it yet, either ... but there's an opportunity here for this developer or some other developer to create a situation that will benefit all New Yorkers and possibly make this project more economic."
The proposal by Transmission Developers Inc., which has an Albany office, would cost at least $2 billion, paid for by the Quebec company, not by New York taxpayers or ratepayers, said Cahill, a Kingston Democrat.
It's a mega proposal rare for New York, which has spent years in recession.
But New York City appears to already be revving up, and Cahill said its insatiable need for more power will begin soon.
"We also have to make sure we have reliability, and reliability doesn't come from a single source but from multiple sources ... and from a number of lines going into the city," Cahill said Friday.
An industry spokesman calls the new plan to study upstate connections an attempt to blunt opposition expected in upcoming public hearings.
"It's an empty promise," said Gavin Donohue, chief executive of the Independent Power Producers of New York.
Donohue and Matt Nelligan, director of operation and public policy for Senate Energy Committee Chairman George Maziarz, noted that the study of upstate connections isn't part of the company's formal proposal to the state Public Service Commission, which must approve the project.
"We certainly appreciate the assemblyman's involvement," Nelligan said. "A study being done outside the process will have no standing legally."
Maziarz, a Niagara County Republican, remains concerned about the impact of the Quebec-to-New York City line on western New York power producers, Nelligan said. He said private companies that have invested millions in upstate New York on more environmentally safe plants won't be able to fairly compete with a government-subsidized power producer in Quebec.