Friday, February 29, 2008

Schumer wary of NYSEG buyout by Jonathan D. Epstein

Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Thursday called on Spanish energy company Iberdrola S.A. to protect 1.5 million Upstate New York ratepayers from spiking energy bills and poor service when it buys the parent of New York State Electric & Gas.

Madrid-based Iberdrola, a global energy provider, agreed last June to pay $8.6 billion in cash to buy Portland, Maine-based Energy East Corp., the parent of NYSEG, which serves suburban and rural portions of Western New York. Energy East also owns Rochester Gas & Electric, and several New England utilities.

The proposal has been approved by federal officials but is still pending before the state Public Service Commission, which is negotiating a settlement with Iberdrola that can still be rejected or altered by the PSC. If approved, the purchase, coming seven years after British utility National Grid PLC bought Niagara Mohawk in 2001, means most customers in Western New York will get their power from a European-owned company.

But that earlier merger has had its problems. Schumer said Niagara Mohawk customers have experienced rate increases and “unpredictable service” since the merger, and said he wants to avoid another “National Grid debacle.” He noted that Iberdrola is paying significantly more than Energy East’s market value, but has offered few guarantees to benefit customers.

The New York Democrat urged Iberdrola to set up a trust fund — formally known as a regulatory deferral account — to offset rate increases in coming years so current customers of RG&E and Binghamton- based NYSEG don’t face higher monthly utility bills.

He also asked the Spanish company to agree to a “performance assurance plan” that would impose penalties if service quality deteriorates after the merger.

Both requests were included in a letter to the PSC, which also encouraged the agency not to prevent Iberdrola from developing further sources of renewable energy.

The deal would create an energy giant with operations in 14 coun - tries, and would give Iberdrola a strong position from which to expand in the United States.

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Schumer wants conditions on Energy East buyout by Claudia Vargas

(February 29, 2008) — While Iberdrola SA continues to negotiate with the state Public Service Commission on the purchase of Energy East Corp., Sen. Charles Schumer is recommending a specific plan for Iberdrola to adopt if the deal goes through.

The New York Democrat said Thursday that takeovers of utilities can often benefit shareholders but hurt ratepayers.

His concern echoed what was said at a PSC public hearing in Rochester last week, when many speakers said they already were pinched by high costs of electricity and natural gas.

Energy East is the parent of Rochester Gas and Electric and New York State Electric and Gas. Iberdrola, based in Bilbao, Spain, has an agreement to acquire Energy East for $4.5 billion but still needs PSC approval.

Schumer said he doesn't want the Iberdrola takeover to have a negative effect on rates and service, which is what he said happened after National Grid of Britain acquired Niagara Mohawk in 2001.

"Their fear comes with good reason," Schumer said about ratepayers' concerns. "National Grid is history we do not want to repeat ... soaring bills and lousy service."

Schumer proposed that Iberdrola set up a trust fund of at least $1 billion that could be tapped to offset rate increases and keep monthly utility bills as low as possible.

He also said he wants Iberdrola to set up a performance assurance plan, which would provide for fines for any service failures.

Additionally, he said he wants the PSC to require that Iberdrola be aggressive with alternative energy development in upstate, especially wind energy, which is a forte of the Spanish company.

Finally, Schumer said he wants Iberdrola to repower RG&E's Russell power plant in Greece as a natural gas facility, rather than coal, a commitment RG&E already has made.

"The PSC must make them, literally, put their money where their mouth is," Schumer said of Iberdrola, adding that he intends to put "a lot of pressure" on the PSC to adopt his recommendations in its current negotiations with the company. Schumer said he sent a formal letter to the PSC outlining his recommendations.

James Denn, a PSC spokesman, said Schumer's letter will be "closely reviewed and considered as proceedings continue. In any public proceeding, any letters that are received are given careful consideration."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

PSC Allows You to Weigh in on Iberdrola.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) seeks public comment on whether Iberdrola S.A. should acquire Energy East, the parent company of New York State electric & Gas (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas & Electric Corporation (RG&E)

Iberdrola is the owner of the proposed Jordanville wind farm. Perhaps the best argument against Iberdrola's proposed acquisition, is the PSC's own reluctance to allow a single company to own both the means of generation (Jordanville) and transmission of electricity. The reason, of course, is fear of monopoly control. A further cause of concern is the fact that NYMO is already owned by National Grid, a foreign-owned corporation. If Iberdrola acquires NYSEG, much of NYS's transmission capacity will be owned by foreign interests. If this is further complicated by foreign ownership of generating capacity, as well, we would have legitimate concern over to what degree the interests of these corporations will correspond to the interest of NYS consumers. We should also ask to what degree these corporations will be answerable for their policies if they should not correspond to local needs?

Interestingly, comment already received - largely from public agencies, private corporations and public interest groups - is divided as to whether the proposal will encourage or discourage wind energy development.

The PSC itself states "it would discourage wind energy investments unless the PSC bars the companies from owning generating plants in New York…"

So the question might be why does Iberdrola want to own both generating and transmission capacity?


Writing: Jaclyn A. Brilling, Secretary, Public Service Commission, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350. Refer to Case 07-M-0906-Iberdroler Merger.

Toll-Free: Opinion Line at 1-800-335-2120.

Internet: Via the "PSC Comment Form, in the "Consumer Assistance" file accessed through the website:

DEADLINE for all comments is March 31, 2008.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

PSC to hear comments on Energy East-Iberdrola merger tonight

Public Service Commission representatives are soliciting comments on Iberdrola's proposed acquisition of Energy East Corp., the parent of New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas and Electric.

The Binghamton session is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the community room of the State Office Building, 44, Hawley St.

While both Iberdrola and Energy East are saying the merger could have major customer benefits, the state regulatory agency is questioning that assessment. Public Service Commission staff said that the merger would not, without modification, benefit customers.

Commission staff also question whether the merger would, as the companies claim, enhance renewable energy investments in the state. It has been commission policy that electric distribution companies divorce themselves from generation, and the proposed merger would mean that both NYSEG and RGE would control more electric generation capacity.

The commission is also asking that additional measures be put in place to protect electric customers from the financial risks of Iberdrola's other businesses.

Regulators in other states where Energy East has operations have already approved the merger. Federal agencies have also signed off on the merger.

Another sticking point in the approval process has developed over the past three weeks. Iberdrola could itself be the subject of acquisition in the coming weeks or months, and New York regulators want to hold off review of the Energy East deal until it knows the final fate of Iberdrola.

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Public hearings on proposed energy buyout

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- The public will have the chance to comment on the proposed acquisition of NYSEG by a Spanish company.

The New York State Public Service Commission is holding hearings in Binghamton and Ithaca on whether to approve Iberdrola's proposal to acquire Energy East Corporation. That's the parent company of NYSEG and Rochester Gas and Electric.

Tuesday's hearing is at 7 pm in the community room of the Binghamton State Office Building. Wednesday's hearing is scheduled for 1 pm in the Ithaca Town Hall.

If you can't make either hearing, you can comment over the phone by calling 1-800-335-2120.
You can also submit comments on the Public Service Commission's website at

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Utility aims to ride new breeze by LARRY RULISON

ALBANY -- Iberdrola SA, the Spanish utility seeking to acquire Energy East Corp. for $4.5 billion, is the largest wind power developer in the world.

And that has been one of the company's biggest selling points as it seeks approval from the state Public Service Commission to acquire Energy East, which has more than 1 million customers in New York, including about 45,000 in the Capital Region through its New York State Electric & Gas subsidiary.

In filings made with the PSC, Iberdrola has argued that the merger would help New York "further the state's renewable energy goals," including its ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for 25 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2013.

Wind farms are expected to play a big part in helping the state reach that goal. There are roughly 400 megawatts of wind power generation capacity in the state right now, with about 1,000 megawatts expected to be operational by the end of the year.

(Click to read entire article)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Iberdrola fined 15 mln eur by Spain antitrust body

MADRID, Feb. 15, 2008 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- Iberdrola SA (OOTC:IBDSF) (OOTC:IBDRY) has been fined 15.4 mln eur by the Comision Nacional de la Competencia (CNC) for abusing its dominant position in the electricity generation market, the antitrust body said.

(Click to read entire article)

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EDF plans to acquire 25 pct stake in Iberdrola after Spain's elections - report

MADRID, Feb. 15, 2008 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- EDF plans to acquire a 25 pct stake in Iberdrola SA (OOTC:IBDSF) (OOTC:IBDRY) after Spain's general elections on March 9, El Confidencial reported, citing unnamed sources.

Combining this holding with Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA's direct and indirect stakes of around 12 pct and other core shareholder's Basque saving bank BBK's about 7 pct, the website said the predators would have enough of a controlling stake to oust Iberdrola chairman Ignacio Sanchez Galan.

BBK has been cited recently as saying that its stake in Ibedrdrola is 'strategic,' and the Basque savings bank has always been considered as a staunch supporter of Galan.

(Click to read entire article)

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hearings set on Energy East deal

(February 13, 2008) — Eight months after the deal was unveiled, members of the public will have a chance next week to voice their opinions about Iberdrola SA's proposed $4.5 billion purchase of the parent of Rochester Gas and Electric.

A series of six hearings has been scheduled around the state by the Public Service Commission, whose approval is needed before Iberdrola's purchase of Energy East Corp. can proceed.

The Rochester hearing was set for 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Central Library. Other hearings will be in Binghamton, Ithaca, Plattsburgh and Erie and Putnam counties.

New York is the only state where Energy East does business that hasn't cleared the deal. Although groups such as Greater Rochester Enterprise have supported the acquisition, the staff of the Public Service Commission last month took the position that customers of RG&E and New York State Electric and Gas, also owned by Energy East, wouldn't benefit.

"The commission should require additional measures to protect NYSEG and RG&E customers from the financial risks of Iberdrola's other businesses, to maintain access to the companies' financial records, and to ensure adequate system reliability and customer service," the PSC staff said.

Iberdrola, which has its headquarters in Bilbao, Spain, is known for its focus on wind energy. In earlier testimony before the PSC, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said that emphasis was important.

"The development of more wind energy is a goal that should be considered when the merger is reviewed," the DEC said.

In addition to the PSC staff's questions about the benefit to consumers, the staff pointed out in recent days that Iberdrola may itself be a takeover target.

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Acciona IBERDROLA worldwide wind power monopolization

"The process of consolidation has already begun at the country level, in particular in the more mature wind markets, where major players are emerging as owners of the majority of the assets. In the Spanish market four companies, Iberdrola, Acciona, Endesa and EDP, already control over 70% of operating wind assets, with Iberdrola leading the way with 32% market share at the end of 2006. In 2006, Acciona bought Corporation Eolica Cesa SA, a wind power generator with over 600MW of capacity installed, increasing its market share to just over 18%.

(Click for page to read entire PDF file)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spanish Power Firm Iberdrola Buys Into U.S.

The deal has yet to get the approval of Energy East shareholders, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state agencies. Iberdrola has stressed that the deal is a “friendly” one and is expected to get regulatory approval towards the end of 2008.

Iberdrola has said that it may carry out a capital hike to fund the acquisition, and is exploring possibilities including the issue of new shares, though this would not take place until the deal is near completion.

Iberdrola has yet to explain the reasons behind the hefty premium it is paying in terms of expected synergies. Victor Peiro Peiro, an analyst at Spain’s Caja Madrid, said it will hope to avoid the problems that have plagued several European acquisitions recently, where plans have fallen through at the last minute as a result of the low premium paid.

In addition Energy East, which has a total of 3 million customers, is a good sized company for Iberdrola to acquire in order to begin its first foray into utility distribution in the U.S.

(Click to read entire article)

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PSC Calendar of Hearings on Iberdrola acquistion of Energy East

Three Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223-1350

The Calendar of Hearings is published weekly by the New York State Department of Public Service. In the event that there are no regularly scheduled hearings, no calendar will appear for that week.

The Department uses multiple contractors to provide transcripts of hearings and conferences. Parties interested in receiving copies of transcripts should generally make arrangements directly with the specific reporter covering the hearing or conference of interest. (Special procedures exist for municipalities in Article X cases.)

PLEASE NOTE: If you are not an active party and you plan to attend a hearing at 90 Church Street, please notify Jan Goorsky (at 212-417-2378) in advance of the hearing. When you arrive for the hearing, please be prepared to show a valid and current photo identification to be admitted into the building.

February 11, 2008
& LOCATION___________
Feb. 19
1:00 p.m.

Putnam County Training and Operations Building
112 Old Route 4
Carmel, NY
Rafael A. Epstein
Public Statement Hearing
Feb. 19
7:00 p.m.

Binghamton State Office Building
Community Room
44 Hawley Street
Binghamton, NY
Rafael A. Epstein
Public Statement Hearing
Feb. 20
1:00 p.m.

Ithaca Town Hall
Shirley Raffensperger Meeting Room
215 North Tioga Street
Ithaca, NY
Rafael A. Epstein
Public Statement Hearing
& LOCATION___________
Feb. 20
7:00 p.m.

Lancaster Town Hall
Board Room
21 Central Avenue
Lancaster, NY
Rafael A. Epstein
Public Statement Hearing
Feb. 21
1:00 p.m.

Rochester Public Library
Rundell Auditorium
115 South Avenue
Rochester, NY
Rafael A. Epstein
Public Statement Hearing
Feb. 22
1:00 p.m.

Plattsburgh City Hall
41 City Hall Place
Plattsburgh, NY
Rafael A. Epstein
Public Statement Hearing
Feb. 25
10:00 a.m. (Continuing Daily as Necessary)

3 Empire State Plaza
3rd Floor Hearing Room
Albany, NY
Rafael A. Epstein
Evidentiary Hearing

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Energy East takeover may be delayed

(February 12, 2008) — MADRID, Spain — Iberdrola SA's proposed purchase of Energy East Corp., the parent of Rochester Gas and Electric, may be stalled because Iberdrola itself could be a takeover target.

Reports saying that European utilities might make a hostile bid to acquire Iberdrola make it difficult to know who will eventually own Energy East, the staff of the New York state Public Service Commission said in a filing that asked for an indefinite delay in the approval process.

Iberdrola responded by saying that delaying the proceedings is "unnecessary and should be rejected because there has been no offer or bid made, or agreement reached, to acquire ... a controlling interest in Iberdrola."

The company, which is based in Bilbao, Spain, said it would notify New York regulators of any such agreement. Approval by New York is the last regulatory hurdle for Iberdrola's planned $4.5 billion purchase of Energy East, which is the parent of New York State Electric and Gas as well as RG&E.

Hearings on the deal are to begin this month unless the PSC goes along with the staff request for a delay.

Iberdrola wants Energy East as a platform to expand in the United States, especially with wind-driven power plants, of which Iberdrola is the world's biggest owner.

Electricite de France SA said last week that it had held talks with Iberdrola's largest shareholder about investing in the Spanish utility. E.ON AG of Germany is also considering a takeover bid.

Iberdrola had planned to complete the purchase of Energy East by the end of June, but that timetable might now be in doubt.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Takeover of RG&E's parent may be in doubt

(February 11, 2008) — The $4.5 billion purchase of Energy East Corp., parent of Rochester Gas and Electric, by a Spanish utility may be delayed or even scuttled because the overseas utility itself is an apparent takeover target.

The state Public Service Commission staff has asked for a postponement of hearings on Iberdrola SA's proposed purchase of Energy East because of reports linking European utilities with a potential hostile bid for Iberdrola.

Iberdrola responded to the PSC staff by saying that delaying the proceedings is “unnecessary and should be rejected because there has been no offer or bid made, or agreement reached, to acquire the stock of, or obtain a controlling interest in Iberdrola.”

Approval by New York state is the last regulatory hurdle for Iberdrola’s planned purchase of Energy East, which is the parent of New York State Electric and Gas as well as RG&E.

(Click to read entire article)

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E.ON is considering making a counterbid for Iberdrola, the Spanish owner of ScottishPower

“They are looking at it very carefully,” said one source, who added that E.ON board members including chief executive Wulf Bernotat continue to view Spain as a key strategic priority after it was thwarted in an earlier effort to buy Endesa, another Spanish group.

E.ON could consider buying a stake in Iberdrola on its own or might seek the help of a joint bidder, probably a Spanish company such as ACS, to smooth the way for a deal, allowing it to buy certain assets but not others. Such a strategy might also allow the group to avoid political opposition within Spain as well as from competition authorities.

(Click to read entire article)

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Use of eminent domain threatened by NANCY MADSEN

Upstate NY Power is backed by the global investment and advisory firm Babcock & Brown Limited. Babcock & Brown or its affiliates have never used eminent domain to obtain land, spokesman Matthew Dallas said.

"We're working for a voluntary transfer of the easements required," he said. "We're offering significantly more than the fair market value."

But if a landowner doesn't participate, the company will look for alternatives, he said.

Upstate NY Power does not have the authority to wield eminent domain, at least not yet. Upstate NY Power was formed through the state's transportation law, which potentially gives it the ability to use eminent domain to obtain easements for electricity transmission.

(Click to read entire article)

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PSC moves to delay hearings by LARRY RULISON

ALBANY -- Attorneys at the state Public Service Commission were scrambling this week to postpone hearings over the $4.5 billion acquisition of Energy East Corp. by the Spanish utility Iberdrola SA.

Headquartered in Maine, Energy East has 3 million customers in New York and New England. Its Rochester-based utility, New York State Electric & Gas, has 45,000 customers in the Capital Region.

Iberdrola originally came to the PSC in August seeking approval of the deal. Hearings were scheduled to begin Feb. 25.

However, late last month, several news reports said that Iberdrola was the target of a hostile takeover bid by France's largest utility, Electricite de France, with possible help from a Spanish construction company called Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA. Other reports said that Germany's largest utility, E.ON AG, was also interested in acquiring Iberdrola.

(Click to read entire article)

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Friday, February 8, 2008


S4608 has been reintroduced.

Most of the elections in New York State in November resulted in many elected officials that voice the same concerns introduced in this bill. It is imperative that all Assembly and Senate of New York State be notified of your support for this bill. Please let the sponsors know that you support them in their efforts and please let the others know they should support them and why. Please encourage your local officials to do the same.

It would be advantageous to our "campaign" to send detailed emails from any place in the world. Describe the destruction (to the environment, community, etc. any aspects you have.) these projects have caused to your town, state, or country. I will be happy to write some sample letters that can be used for those who need them, as I have in the past.


FURTHERMORE, please keep your fingers and toes crossed that my town, Brandon, NY USA will pass the restrictive ordinance on February 20th which will in essence ban industrial turbines from another community.

Most passionately,

Anne Britton
North Country Advocates for the Environment

(Click to read the bill)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Impact of Article X siting on NYS Local Governments in Rural Counties - Senator George H. Winner, Jr

January 31, 2008

Dear Local Government Official:

As you may know, two bills have been introduced in the state Legislature that would re-authorize Article X of the Public Service Law which is designed to streamline the siting review and approval process for major electric generating facilities. (A brief summary of the proposed provisions is shown on Page 2). Wind farm projects that meet certain thresholds established for power plants are included in these proposals, with the process governed by a statewide siting board.

Currently, municipalities in New York govern the siting process for wind farms proposed within their jurisdictions utilizing land use regulations they have enacted and the SEQRA review process, with several projects either already completed or under review. The proposed Article X legislation would impact such local control over the siting of wind farms.

The NYS Legislative Commission on Rural Resources has been a strong proponent of responsible wind energy development in rural New York. It is our intent to inform the Legislature of the impact on rural communities of the proposed Article X legislation. Please take a few moments to provide your guidance to us by completing the questionnaire on Page 3 and return by Fax (518.426.6960) or E-mail: by February 20. It is anticipated action will be taken on the Article X legislation this session so time is of the essence in submitting your input. Call 518.455.2544 if you have any questions or need assistance in completing the survey.

Thank you for your cooperation and assistance.

Senator George H. Winner, Jr.

Chairman Note: The US wind energy industry installed 5,244 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity in 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The rapid growth boosts the total US wind power capacity by 45% in only one year. In fact, wind power provided 30% of the new generating capacity installed in the United States in 2007. And, in New York, there are currently six operating wind farms, five under construction, and at least 30 more planned. Prepared by the NYS Legislative Commission on Rural Resources January 2008

Synopsis of Article X Bills Senate Bill

Senate Bill 5908/ Assembly Bill 8697

Two bills (Senate 5908 and Assembly 8697) have been introduced in the state Legislature to re-authorize Article X of the Public Service Law that governs the siting of major electric generating facilities. Although not specifically mentioned anywhere in the proposed legislation, wind farm projects that meet certain kilowatt threshold capacities shown below would also be included in the siting review process along with power plants.

A statewide siting board would govern the review and approval of all such projects, with construction prohibited without applicants first obtaining an operating certificate. Applicants would provide the following information and materials: a description of the site and facility, alternative locations, environmental impacts, health impacts, generating plant costs and useful life, need for the plant, security issues, and provision for public notice and input.

Major electric generating facilities would be defined under the Assembly bill as those that meet or exceed a threshold of 30 thousand kilowatts. The Senate bill defines two types of electric generation facilities as being either “major” or “minor”, with corresponding thresholds of 80 thousand or more and 50 thousand or more kilowatts. Minor projects would be charged lower fees.

Both bills include provisions that create a pre-application process that requires applicants to file a preliminary scoping statement describing the project, its potential environmental impacts and proposed studies to evaluate those impacts. Such studies would include air and water quality, ecology, land use, noise, visual, cultural, socioeconomic, transportation and other considerations. The public would be kept abreast of the filing through published notices and other outreach efforts designed to encourage its participation.

The siting board would be required to determine if the proposed facility is in compliance with local laws and regulations, unless it finds that those local requirements are unreasonably restrictive in view of existing technology or the needs of or cost to rate payers. Municipalities or state agencies would be prohibited from requiring additional permits or approvals of a proposed facility beyond those expressly provided for under the legislation, with minor amendments. Conforming provisions from the state Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) clarify that actions taken by the siting board under Article X are not subject to the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (ECL Article 8).

The siting board would have 60 days to determine if an application complied with Article X and if so to set a date for a public hearing. Reviews of new projects with an expected capacity under 200 thousand kilowatts must be completed within 12 months after receipt of a complete application, with a 6 month extension available to projects exceeding 200 thousand kilowatts, if needed.

For more information on detailed provisions in the two bills, readers are encouraged to go to either the Senate or Assembly web sites at or www.assembly.state. Prepared by the NYS Legislative Commission on Rural Resources January 2008


(Click on above link to take the Article X Survey)

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Report: Possible benefits, problems with NYRI power line proposal by Devlin Barrett

WASHINGTON - A report by congressional investigators concludes power lines like the proposed New York Regional Interconnect in upstate New York could make the electric grid more efficient, but could also pose safety and security risks.

The Government Accountability Office released the report Friday, examining the possible effects of building a line like NYRI.

The company wants to build a 190-mile, high voltage power line running from Utica into Orange County to feed the growing power demands of the suburbs around New York City and alleviate some of the congestion in the electric grid.

"When you look at the report as a whole, it clearly confirms many of the things that we have talked about in terms of the damage (NYRI) would do," said Rep. Michael Arcuri, a Utica Democrat who sought the GAO review.

NYRI spokesman David Kalson said the report "presents both sides of this important issue, a good way to help make infrastructure projects, such as transmission lines, better projects," adding that NYRI is "critical to New York's energy future."

The report found potential advantages of a high voltage, direct current line include:

_ Decreased congestion and lowered costs to consumers.

_ Lower transmission costs over long distances.

_ Easier construction and maintenance when built along existing transportation routes, like a rail line or highway.

Potential disadvantages, the GAO found, were:

_ Lower property values along the route.

_ Reduced incentives to conserve energy.

_ Some safety or security risks in having power lines so close to transportation routes.

Many communities along the line's path are trying to stop the project, saying their property values will be hurt by ugly power lines that actually increase the cost of electricity in their towns. Arcuri, along with fellow upstate Democratic Reps. Maurice Hinchey and John Hall have vigorously opposed the plan.

Advocates say the line will be an economic boon to both the communities along the way and the state as a whole by improving the electric grid and easing some of the power crunch that hits the New York City area on hot summer days when demand for energy is at its peak.

The GAO report does not come out in favor of a particular approach, or even analyze the NYRI project in particular, but instead looks at the ramifications of building a high power line on top of an existing railway or roadway.

"Potential risks... may include the increased likelihood of safety and security incidents due to the proximity of the transmission lines and the transportation infrastructure," the GAO wrote to Arcuri and other lawmakers. Additionally, "a combined transmission line and natural gas line may be a more desirable terrorist target than either facility on its own."

NYRI proposes to build the line mostly along old railroad lines. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has suggested running it along the New York State Thruway instead.

Arcuri said the Thruway route could be a good "viable alternative," but insisted he was dead-set against running it along the rail line.

"We'll continue to throw roadblocks for NYRI every single way and place we possibly can," he said.

The NYRI plan is the most intense example of similar fights about power lines around the country as the U.S. Department of Energy tries to put in place a new law encouraging line construction in areas they believe are at risk of blackouts like the one that swept from Ohio into Canada and New York in 2003.

The department has named two "national interest energy transmission corridors" where the federal government could step in and approve such lines if the local authorities fail to do so. One of those corridors includes a large swath of upstate New York, including the area where NYRI would like to build.

Government Accountability Office:

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European company may buy Iberdrola

(February 5, 2008) — MADRID, Spain — Iberdrola SA, the power producer that wants to buy the parent of Rochester Gas and Electric, is itself the subject of a possible takeover attempt and is poised to hire Morgan Stanley to prepare a defense.

Iberdrola's shares have jumped 33 percent in Madrid trading in recent days after the newspaper Cinco Dias reported that Electricite de France SA was preparing a bid, possibly with another utility.

Spain's only larger power company, Endesa SA, was acquired last year after a 25-month bidding contest.

"Iberdrola has learned from past hostile bid attempts that good defensive planning is half a battle won," said Pedro Real de Asua, a money manager at Barclays in Madrid. "Iberdrola is the only possible takeover target for any company with pan-European ambitions."

Morgan Stanley, the big investment bank based in New York City, has advised Iberdrola previously. In 2000, when Endesa was pursuing its competitor, Morgan Stanley recommended against the $13 billion bid. The investment firm also helped Bilbao-based Iberdrola repel Gas Natural SDG in 2003.

Neither Iberdrola nor Morgan Stanley would publicly comment on the Electricite de France situation, but experts in the European utility industry said Morgan Stanley will again advise Iberdrola.

European utility mergers increased 24 percent last year to a record $217 billion because of rising energy prices. Iberdrola completed the $28 billion purchase of Scottish Power Plc last April, adding plants in North America and the United Kingdom.

Chairman Ignacio Sanchez Galan is planning for Iberdrola, the world's largest owner of wind farms, to profit from alternative energy as nations seek to curb carbon dioxide emissions and cut reliance on imported fuel.

In the United States, Iberdrola has an agreement to purchase Energy East Corp. for $4.5 billion. The Portland, Maine, company is the parent of RG&E and New York State Electric & Gas, both with headquarters in Rochester.

Iberdrola and Energy East have said they expect the deal to close in the first half of 2008, though action by the New York state Public Service Commission is still pending.

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NYSEG customers not being choosy

The results are in for the fourth round of New York State Electric & Gas Corp.'s Voice Your Choice program.

About one out of every four NYSEG electricity customers -- or 212,353 out of 868,888 customers -- actively chose a power supplier and pricing option for this year, NYSEG spokesman Clay Ellis said.

The remaining customers were automatically enrolled in one of several default options:

* NYSEG supply customers who did not make a choice were enrolled in a NYSEG variable price option, specifically the NYSEG Default Supply Option for residential and small business customers, and the NYSEG Variable Price Option for larger business customers.

* Customers who did not make a choice and buy their electricity supply from an energy services company, or ESCO, were put in the ESCO Price Option and will continue to buy their supply from their ESCO.

Of those customers who made a choice, 77 percent selected the NYSEG Fixed Price Option, 11 percent selected the default supply option and 12 percent selected the ESCO supply option.

About 28 percent of NYSEG electricity customers made an active choice during the 2006 enrollment period, Ellis said.

Also, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority announced Monday that it awarded NYSEG $200,000 in funding for a $373,923 project at U.S. Salt Corp.'s Watkins Glen facility.

An engineering study for a compressed air energy storage facility will be undertaken to determine if underground salt caverns can be filled with compressed air for later discharge to drive electric-generating turbines. This process would pump air into the cavern during low-cost, off-peak hours, and store it there until it is needed to replace natural gas-fueled turbines during peak-demand periods.

The project is in contract development, with work expected to begin by the second quarter, NYSERDA said.

NYSERDA said its investment in NYSEG's project and other projects across the state will help reduce electric demand and strengthen the reliability of the New York grid.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Iberdrola Uses Morgan Stanley for Defense, People Say

Iberdrola SA, Spain's second-biggest power producer, hired Morgan Stanley to prepare a defense against a possible takeover, according to two people briefed on the plan.

Morgan Stanley advised Iberdrola, which has a market value of 51.7 billion euros ($77 billion), against the $13 billion bid by Endesa SA in 2000. The firm also helped the Bilbao-based utility repel Gas Natural SDG SA's 26 billion-euro attack in 2003.

Iberdrola jumped 33 percent in Madrid trading from Jan. 23 through last week after newspaper Cinco Dias reported Electricite de France SA was preparing a bid and that E.ON AG was planning to buy a stake in the utility. Spain's largest power company, Endesa, was acquired last year by a group including Enel SpA following a 25-month bidding contest.

``Iberdrola has learned from past hostile bid attempts that good defensive planning is half a battle won,'' said Pedro Real de Asua, who helps manage the equivalent of about $8 billion at Barclays Fondos in Madrid, including Iberdrola shares. ``Iberdrola is the only possible takeover target for any company with pan-European ambitions.''

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

PSC critical of Spanish utility's merger plan by LARRY RULISON

Iberdrola SA's proposed acquisition of Energy East will hurt state consumers, according to staff reports

ALBANY -- Officials at the state Public Service Commission believe that Spanish utility Iberdrola SA's $4.5 billion acquisition of Energy East Corp. will be bad for New York consumers as planned.
Based in New Gloucester, Maine, Energy East has 3 million customers in New York and New England. Its Rochester-based subsidiary owns New York State Electric & Gas, which serves about 50,000 customers in the Capital Region.

Iberdrola came to the PSC back in August seeking regulatory approval for the deal within six months -- a time period that ended Friday.

PSC approval will take much longer than that. A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 25, and briefs are due in March. A vote by the PSC's five commissioners has yet to be scheduled.

So far, PSC staff that provide information and recommendations to the commissioners are opposing the deal on several fronts.

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