|By Bill Howley|
Senate Bill 614, supported by the WV Environmental Council, Stop PATH WV and WV Citizens Against PATH, as well as thousands of citizens across West Virginia has passed the 2010 West Virginia Legislature and is going to Governor Manchin for his signature.
The bill passed the WV Senate on a unanimous vote and the WV House of Delegates with only two voting against it.
The bill was amended three times.
Senate Bill 614 contained two main provisions. It is directed at the way the West Virginia Public Service Commission handles applications for certificates of convenience and necessity for high voltage (over 200 kV) transmission lines.
West Virginia law on these transmission projects had failed to require the PSC to give priority to the impacts of new lines affecting citizens and consumers.
Senate Bill 614 remedies that problem by including these impacts in the list of impacts that the PSC must consider in these cases.
Existing West Virginia law also did not require that land owners who are under threat of land seizure for power lines be given notice when power companies file their applications at the PSC.
Senate Bill 614 requires that all land owners within the power line construction corridor be given at least 30 days notice, by certified mail, that landowners have the right to intervene in the PSC case at least 30 days before the PSC sets a deadline for intervenors.
In both recent power line cases, the PSC-approved TrAIL line and the pending PATH line that affects Calhoun and regional counties, many land owners were prevented from exercising their rights to intervene in PSC cases.
They discovered that their property would be affected after the PSC closed the cases to new intervenors. Only intervenors can participate directly in decisions about whether the power line is needed or where it will be sited.
Senate Bill 614 will now protect West Virginia power consumers, land owners and citizens from the abuse suffered by land owners and rate payers as a result of the TrAIL power line that the PSC approved in 2008.
While the land owner protection provisions of the bill will not apply directly to the pending PATH case, it others a provision that will influence presentation of evidence as the PSC considers evidence concerning PATH.