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Chronicle of a Transmission Line Siting

Cross-Sound Cable Co. shows how transmission siting is much harder to do now than in the good old days.
Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 2003
of siting approval;
(h) seek court relief from municipal stop-work orders;
(i) address opponents' claims of environmental impacts after the approval;
(j) address legislative attempts to stop the project, either during the siting process or even after the approvals are received; and
(k) defend against opponents' appeals of the approval decision through the state court system.

Starting on the Road to Siting Approval

On July 24, 2001, Cross-Sound applied to the Connecticut Siting Council for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need to construct, operate and maintain the cable project. Cross-Sound had substantially redesigned the cable project to address environmental concerns expressed by the siting council with respect to an earlier project that, in the siting council's determination, would have had too significant an impact on shellfish resources in New Haven Harbor. In response to the siting council's concerns, Cross-Sound designed the cable project to avoid all but 700 feet of actively cultivated shellfish beds. It did so by routing the cable through the Federal Navigation Channel in New Haven Harbor, and by providing for installation of the cable from landfall to the channel using directional drilling.

Cross-Sound applied for approval to install the cable through a variety of environments requiring condition-specific installation methods. Each installation method was selected for its speed, accuracy and minimal environmental impact. Within the Long Island Sound and in the channel, the chosen method involved laying the cable on the seafloor, followed by a self-propelled remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that locates and follows the cable on the sea floor for its linear embedment process. The ROV's jet knives use water pressure to hydraulically penetrate bottom sediments to the desired installation depth. Once the ROV incises the seabed and moves forward, the submarine cable settles into the bottom of the jetted section.

Cross-Sound's application to the Connecticut siting council was opposed by the city of New Haven, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and numerous state legislators.

The siting council held five days of public hearings at which the city of New Haven and Blumenthal not only cross-examined Cross-Sound's project personnel and independent experts but also presented their own witnesses. Cross-Sound presented experts on electric system operation and reliability, alternative route analysis, the Eastern oyster and shellfish resources, electric and magnetic fields, impact of installation and more usual environmental issues associated with siting (aesthetics, historical areas, animal and wildlife disturbance, natural resource damage, and thermal and water resource impacts). Finally, on Jan. 3, 2002, the siting council granted a certificate to Cross-Sound. The siting council determined the cable project would provide a public benefit and would not have any environmental impact that would provide "sufficient reason to deny the application." The council noted the increased importance of regional cooperation with respect to infrastructure.

Most transmission siting stories would end right there, but Cross-Sound's legal challenge to site and then operate its transmission line had only begun.

Navigating the Post-Approval Challenge: Green Lights Go to Red

After the siting council approved the project in January, that decision was challenged over a period of eight months by the state legislature,