(07/20/2012)
The regional grid operator for West Virginia and 12 other states is now saying there may no longer a need for the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH).

The $2 billion project had been described as critical to delivering needed power to the northeast corridor metro areas of the US.

The project would have built giant transmission lines across a number of WV counties, including Calhoun, from the John Amos coal-fired power plant in Putnam County to Maryland.

Analysis by PJM Interconnection may not support construction of the transmission line, says company officials.

PATH was proposed in 2007 to address predicted problems with grid reliability but was suspended last year following efforts by several groups to look at alternative delivery systems.

Bill Howley, Calhoun opponent and activist against the project said part of the PATH costs would have been shifted to WV customers with continued air contamination for West Virginians from the Putnam County fossil-fuel plant.

Grid operators wanted to keep the coal generated electric plants away from the metro areas.

Howley says, "The PATH project is almost dead," with the outfits generally adopting smaller projects that activist groups have long recommended, projects that would get the job done.

PJM spokesman Ray Dotter says testing no longer shows voltage flow problems in the mid-Atlantic.

Dotter also said the economy has slowed, and more generation has become available. More large users have also committed to curtailing power use during peak periods.

He said the company's planning staff will make recommendations to the board that will decide whether PATH efforts will continue, with a decision likely this fall.

Back in March 2011, PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission operator for the Mid-Atlantic states, West Virginia, Ohio and parts of several other states, determined in their 2011 planning process that the PATH high voltage transmission project was not needed.

Shortly after PJM's announcement, American Electric Power (AEP) and FirstEnergy, PATH's owners, dropped all their applications with the public utility commissions of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Howley said in 2011, PJM failed to take the final step of actually canceling PATH.

PJM's board of managers said only that they were putting the project "in abeyance." This suspension allowed AEP and FirstEnergy to continue charging all rate payers in PJM for PATH's costs.

PJM's 2012 planning process is now underway. PJM's engineers have completed most of their tests that will determine the Pennsylvania-based company's transmission plan for 2012. PJM's Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee (TEAC) released preliminary findings of the tests completed so far this year.

The report demonstrated that PJM no longer needs PATH, or a sister line in eastern Maryland called MAPP.

"Critics of PATH has said all along that PATH would not be needed if PJM took steps to manage high power demand on the East Coast and if more new power plants were built in East Coast states," said Howley.

"We also told state regulators that several problem power lines in West Virginia and Virginia could be rebuilt for much less money than we would be paying to build PATH. All of these things have happened, just as we advised, and now the need for PATH has disappeared," he said.

PATH has been stumbling along as a zombie for the past year and a half. Howley said, "It looks like it will finally be put out of its misery by October."

For more detailed information and links to PJM's report go to calhounpowerline.com


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