Gov. Ed Rendell is calling a new federal power line policy harmful to Pennsylvania’s interests.
Rendell urged the U.S. Department of Energy to scrap plans to designate a “national interest” electric transmission corridor covering most of Pennsylvania, including the northeastern region.
“These transmission lines will be on our soil, but may not benefit Pennsylvania’s consumers,” Rendell wrote in a letter to DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman.
Rendell’s intervention came just days before a DOE public hearing Wednesday in the Pittsburgh area on the corridor issue. DOE proposes to designate a Mid-Atlantic corridor where it can pre-empt state authority to locate high-voltage electric transmission lines it considers in the national interest. Once DOE designates a corridor, a 2005 federal law allows power companies to appeal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission if a state agency blocks or delays a power line.
The issue has drawn attention locally, since PPL Electric Utilities Corp. announced plans last month to build a 130-mile, 500 kilovolt line from the Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Salem Township, Luzerne County, to New Jersey.
Rendell sees Pennsylvania as a prime target for new power lines.
As a net electricity exporter, Pennsylvania will be vulnerable to the construction of power lines that move energy to states that lack adequate generating capacity, Rendell added. Under the new federal policy, states without capacity may push generating projects that ignore Pennsylvania’s efforts to develop alternate energy sources through wind power, solar power and ethanol.
The governor is concerned that FERC, if it pre-empts a state’s siting authority for power lines, will conduct a narrow review and not give adequate consideration to alternative routes or new technologies that minimize the impact of a power line.
Rendell also questioned why DOE has such a wide geographic area in the proposed Mid-Atlantic corridor, including 50 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, sections of Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, all of New Jersey and Delaware, and a wide swath of New York, covering the Hudson Valley and Interstate 81 corridor.
“If the DOE truly believes that it must designate corridors to protect the national interest, then it should have identified specific needs and the routes that may be necessary to satisfy those needs,” Rendell said. “Instead, Pennsylvania and a number of other states face the distinct possibility that transmission lines can be located almost anywhere and qualify for designation by FERC.”
DOE is conducting a public comment period on its proposal to designate the Mid-Atlantic corridor and Southwest Area corridor in California, Nevada and Arizona.
DOE officials say the corridors are designed to be large to allow for consideration of a range of transmission projects.
Bodman has said the designations are a first step to modernizing the nation’s aging power grid and helping consumers in regions of the country where transmission capacity is inadequate.
As Rendell weighs in, House lawmakers are scheduled to vote today on a non-binding resolution urging Congress to repeal sections of the federal law that authorize the “national interest” corridors.
House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Greene, the resolution sponsor, said the corridor designation would allow for up to five power lines to run from Ohio to New York.
By Robert Swift
12 June 2007
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