The Champlain Hudson Power Express, planned by Albany, N.Y., Transmission Developers Inc., would carry 1,000 megawatts of power from Canada through cables to be buried under Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.
The project received a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the New York State Public Service Commission on Thursday following three years of state and public review as part of the commission's permitting process. It still requires two levels of federal approvals.
TDI expects the Department of Energy to issue a draft environmental impact statement about the project in June, North Country Public Radio reports.
"We look forward to completing the permitting process so we can begin delivering clean, reliable, low cost power to the residents and businesses of New York," TDI President and Chief Executive Officer Donald Jessome said in a statement Thursday.
TDI and supporters for the project say it will deliver clean and cheaper hydropower energy downstate, reducing reliance on coal and other power plants. TDI says the project won't be located in existing energy corridors and would diversify New York City's supply of energy, boosting the security of the state's power grid.
But critics -- including the Independent Power Producers of New York, whose members generate more than 75 percent of the state's electricity -- say it will reduce upstate jobs by importing energy from Canada rather than from current upstate producers.
"I'm disappointed," state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane and chairman of the State Senate Energy Committee, was quoted as saying by The Buffalo (N.Y.) News. "I think it's (a) bad long-term energy policy, particularly for upstate New York, because I think once you start importing energy from out of state, in this situation out of the country, your energy policy is going to be subject to people outside the state."
Jessome maintains that TDI's projects allow leeway for upstate power companies to supply downstate markets.
"There's lots and lots of room for competition," he told the Buffalo News.
The Blackstone Group, one of the world's largest private equity firms, is the lead investor in TDI and the project.
New York's Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 30 percent of electricity come from renewable energy resources by 2015. In 2011, 24 percent of the state's electricity came from renewable energy resources.