CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An application to build a $2 billion power line from West Virginia to Maryland should be dismissed because less expensive alternatives should be considered first, say staff reviewing the project for the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
Developers of the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH, say the 765-kilovolt line is needed to meet projected power demand along the East Coast by 2015.
But PSC staff said it was “ludicrous” to continue with the project while changes to the region’s existing power grid are being contemplated. Staff specifically mentioned Virginia-based Dominion’s recent notice to rebuild its 500-kilovolt line from Mt. Storm in West Virginia to the Doubs substation in Maryland. That upgrade and other improvements are estimated to cost $500 million to $600 million.
Another planned project is the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway in Maryland. The line is to provide power to the Delmarva Peninsula.
Dominion says the Mt. Storm-Doubs line, which was built in 1966, must be rebuilt to maintain service. Developers gave the line’s current condition as a justification for the PATH project and the separate Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line.
“The rebuild will be a more stable line with 65 percent increased capacity,” PSC staff said it its Dec. 10 filing. The additional capacity “will push the need for the PATH line further out on the horizon,” perhaps to 2020, staff wrote.
PATH is a joint venture of Allegheny Energy Co. and American Electric Power Co. The proposed 275-mile line would run from AEP’s John Amos plant in West Virginia, across three counties in Northern Virginia, to a substation near Kemptown in Frederick County.
At least 250 groups, representing landowners, The Sierra Club, local county commissions and boards of education are opposed to PATH’s construction. Many of them have submitted letters supporting the latest staff filing.
The filing marks the second time PSC staff has recommended the application be dismissed. In October 2009, staff sought to dismiss the application because Maryland’s utility commission had dismissed an application in that state, saying it had been improperly filed.
Instead, the utilities agreed to extend the deadline for when the PSC must make a decision from May 16, 2011, to July 28, 2011.
PATH spokeswoman Jeri Matheny said Thursday the Dominion line “ties in very well” with the PATH project. Also, once PATH is built the Dominion line can be taken out of service for a rebuild, he said.
Matheny did not have an immediate comment on the staff’s recommendation to dismiss the application, saying a formal response would be filed with the PSC next week.
Earlier this month PJM Interconnection approved the Mt. Storm-Doubs line, but also reaffirmed its support of the PATH project. PJM manages the electrical grid in a 13-state region.
If the three-member PSC doesn’t dismiss the PATH application, staff is asking that it require developers to submit new testimony regarding the economic and environmental aspects of the project. Staff is also asking that AEP and Allegheny Energy again agree to extend the decision deadline.
The commission has not taken any action on the staff’s recommendation, PSC spokeswoman Susan Small said Thursday.