(05/06/2009)
West Virginians could pay the highest electric rates in the nation if Congress enacts a carbon tax and West Virginia doesn't diversify its power supply, says Sierra Club lawyer William DePaulo.

DePaulo made his comments to the Supreme Court of Appeals, saying 95 percent of West Virginia's electric power comes from coal compared to 50 percent nationally.

A carbon tax of $10 a ton would cost Allegheny Power $450 million a year.

"Allegheny will go bankrupt with that," he said, "They've got to pass it through."

He urged the Justices to block construction of transmission lines that the Public Service Commission approved for Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company>

The Justices refused to hear the case by a 4-1 vote. Justice Margaret Workman would have granted a hearing.

Those particular lines would run through Monongalia, Preston, Tucker, Grant, Hampshire and Hardy counties.

A second big power project would cross additional WV counties.

The Sierra Club appealed one and Thomas Hildebrand appealed the other "pro se," without a lawyer.

Hildebrand said more than 6,000 persons objected to the lines going from John Amos through central WV at hearings and in letters.

He said the applicant's dire predictions of rolling blackouts were pure speculation.

"We're paying the price so New Jersey can have cheaper power," Hildebrand said. "We export 70 percent of our power out of state."

He said a rush to approval has led to errors, indicating the demand for power has dropped.

He said it was time to look at alternatives.

DePaulo said the PSC rejected alternatives because it expected a need for new power in 2011.

He said West Virginia leads the nation in deaths from particulates from power generation. He said 399 people die each year in West Virginia from particulates.

Allegheny lawyer John Melick said, "There is ample evidence of need."


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