A northeastern high-voltage Line has been approved, with a second line through this region now proposed


By Emily Corio, WV Public Radio

The approval of a high voltage power line across West Virginia's north central and eastern panhandle regions has sparked reactions from the governor and the Sierra Club and still others wonder what the decision will mean for the state's future industrial landscape.

Two of the three-member Public Service Commission approved Allegheny Energy's plans to build a power line across more than 100 miles in northern WV. Michael Albert was recused from the case because of work he did for Allegheny Energy before becoming a commissioner.

The commission agrees with the power company, that the line is needed to make the transmission of electricity more reliable, maybe not in WV, but in the region.

"The decision by the Public Service Commission is a very important step in the project. It's the first state to grant approval for our application," says Alan Staggers, spokesperson for Allegheny Energy.

Regulators in PA and VA have yet to rule on the line, and the WV commission says Allegheny Energy cannot start construction until it gets approval in those states.

Monongalia County resident Don Corwin is president of a citizens group that formed when the power line was first proposed last year. Maps showed it going through his community. The route approved by the commission now avoids this area.

"A very substantial number of our residents were going to be dramatically impacted by this power line, so in that sense we're relieved," says Corwin. "On the other side, we're disappointed. There's no basis for the need of this line in West Virginia."

A West Virginia University study, paid for by Allegheny Energy, projected that the new line could support four new coal fired power plants in the region.

"Four plants, if they were constructed and operated, we estimated what their economic impact could be. Certainly the enhanced transmission might lead to other types of power generators, including wind energy, or other types of power generators that could be located in West Virginia," says WVU Business Professor Tom Witt.

Witt said if four more power plants are built in the region it could add almost a billion dollars to the region's economy in terms of job creation, both at the power plants and in the coal mines, and in more tax revenue in counties where the plants are built.

Also, Gov. Manchin announced Monday that he plans to present a bill before the state legislature that would reduce customer's electric bills and increase tax revenue in counties where new transmission lines are built.

Still, Don Corwin doesn't think West Virginians will get a good deal when it comes to more power lines.

"It doesn't make me feel very good as a West Virginia to know that we're going to end up with power lines and power plants from border to border. Is this what we want our state to become? Do we want to become a power provider to the east coast?"

"What are we getting in return? We're losing our property values. We're losing our property rights. We're losing our quality of life. Are all of these issues being addressed by our state government? We don't think they are."

The Sierra Club plans to appeal the commission's approval of Allegheny Energy's line. Meanwhile, public meetings are being held this month on another high voltage power line. Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power are proposing a line called PATH that would run from Charleston to Martinsburg.



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