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Major Electric Transmission Line May Span County By 2014

Describing the project as a "proposed transmission superhighway," the nation's largest electric power generating company has unveiled a plan to construct a new 550-mile-long set of the largest above-ground high-tension transmission lines currently used in the industry from southwestern West Virginia to central New Jersey. The proposal could include a section traversing Garrett County from west to east.

American Electric Power (AEP) of Columbus, Ohio, says that its $3 billion AEP Intrastate Project would take a minimum of eight years to complete, with a three-year estimate for property and certification acquisition, followed by five years of actual construction, for a projected online date of 2014. The proposed route for the new 765 kilovolt (kV) line is in its "very initial" planning stages, according to AEP media relations manager Melissa McHenry. "The potential route we show on our web site is extremely rudimentary and tentative, and definitely subject to change," she said.

AEP already owns more 765 (kV) lines – the largest transmission lines ever built – than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. The company's newly proposed line would entail over 1,000 towers averaging 135 feet tall each and a surface right-of-way of 100 feet on either side of the line.

The 765 kV line would carry 50 percent more electricity than the largest power lines currently in use in Garrett County, which are capable of transferring 500 kV and are mounted on steel towers approximately 100 to 110 feet tall. For comparison sake, a set of 500 kV lines currently travel from area of the Yough Reservoir near Friendsville,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
American Electric Power (AEP) of Columbus, Ohio, says that its $3 billion AEP Intrastate Project would take a minimum of eight years to complete, with a three-year estimate for property and certification acquisition, followed by five years of actual construction, for a projected online date of 2014. The proposed route for the new 765 kilovolt (kV) line is in its "very initial" planning stages, according to AEP media relations manager Melissa McHenry. "The potential route we show on our web site is extremely rudimentary and tentative, and definitely subject to change," she said.

AEP already owns more 765 (kV) lines – the largest transmission lines ever built – than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. The company's newly proposed line would entail over 1,000 towers averaging 135 feet tall each and a surface right-of-way of 100 feet on either side of the line.

The 765 kV line would carry 50 percent more electricity than the largest power lines currently in use in Garrett County, which are capable of transferring 500 kV and are mounted on steel towers approximately 100 to 110 feet tall. For comparison sake, a set of 500 kV lines currently travel from area of the Yough Reservoir near Friendsville, and cut in a southwest direction across the center of Garrett County to enter Allegany County near Westernport. Another set of 500 kV lines is situated near the southern tip of the county near the Fairfax company's sand, stone, and concrete facility.

The proposed additional transmission capacity must first be approved by PJM, the regional transmission organization responsible for the section of the power grid affected by the new lines. Once the additional capacity is approved, the lengthy siting process will begin.

"Public opinion will be solicited during the routing studies, and will be considered as one of the impacts" states the AEP web site dedicated to the project. "The public also will have the opportunity to participate in proceedings at state and local levels as certificates and permits are being obtained. Utilities typically negotiate agreements with private property owners to acquire rights-of-way, and AEP's experience has generally been positive in reaching acceptable agreements with property owners. If negotiations fail to result in an agreement, utilities have the ability to use eminent domain proceedings to acquire right-of-way. All appropriate environmental impact assessments will be conducted after the route is determined, and the route selection will be directly related to the least-impact options."

As with any project of such magnitude, trade-offs can be expected, and history shows demonstrated declines in property values in the immediate vicinity of new high-tension lines. Impacts on views are one obvious factor, while rumored but scientifically unsubstantiated health effects stemming from electric and magnetic fields emitted by power lines may also play a part. Through a concerted grassroots effort, citizens of York County, Pa. – with the cooperation and support of several local elected officials – claim they were instrumental in derailing a 1992 proposal by General Public Utilities Corp. to run a 500 kV line across Pennsylvania and through their county.

"It was the best grassroots movement that I ever saw in government," Rep. Bruce Smith (R) of Dillsburg, Pa., told The York Dispatch recently. "It was not a 'not in my backyard battle,' it was a 'not in my York County' battle. And if anyone needs help fighting utilities, I'm willing to provide advice," the 26-year political veteran said.

Stressing that his company has no statement yet to make specific to the AEP proposal, Allegheny Power spokesman Allan Staggers offered a two-part explanation as to why a new set of transmission lines could not be placed in or adjacent to the right-of-way of existing high-tension lines.

"It would make sense, except that workings of the regional power grid are all tied together," Staggers said. "To take an existing line out of service for a long period to allow for construction of a new line along the same right-of-way would pose a serious disruption to the delivery of electric power.

"Also, you don't want to 'place all your eggs in one basket'; you don't want to have all your lines in the same area where they could get knocked out at the same time. For instance, there's the possibility that a catastrophe such as a major storm or a plane crash could knock out a set of lines in one area. You would want to still have other lines available in other locations to help pick up the load."

In a statement that could indicate additional effects of the proposed project for the immediate area, the AEP web site said, "In the longer run, we expect the line will help further development of new, environmentally friendly technologies such as . . . renewable power . . . and help in the siting of wind plants in the most windy areas" of the region where the line is located.

The AEP web site claims the project will greatly improve power transfer capacity from the large power plants in the Midwest to approximately 50 million electricity consumers ranging from New York City to Washington, D.C. The proposed line would originate at AEP's Amos 765 kV station in Putnam County, W.Va., connect through Allegheny Power's 500 kV Doubs station in Maryland's Frederick County, and terminate at the 500 kV Deans Station of Public Service Electric and Gas in Middlesex County, N.J., situated halfway between Philadelphia and New York City.

"The nation's transmission system has failed to keep up with the growing demand for electricity, the surge of generation additions (i.e., power plants), and the growing number of generation retirements (i.e., decommissioned power plants)," the AEP web site states. "As demand grows, additional transmission lines must be built to move power from where it is generated to where it is used. The demand for electricity [in mid-Atlantic states] has increased significantly, while the transmission infrastructure that supports movements of bulk power has not increased at an adequate pace. This has led to higher prices for consumers and subjected them to greater reliability risks."

The company says that the electricity blackout of Aug. 14, 2003, reportedly the largest in North American history, affected over 50 million people and incurred "societal costs" of $6 to $10 billion, based on industry and government assessments. "That blackout stopped at the threshold of AEP's strong 765 kV network, [and] the AEP Interstate Project will help to improve reliability to reduce the probability of future occurrences or mitigate the spread of a blackout should it occur."

Further information, in-cluding a map of the proposed route, can be viewed on the AEP project web site at www.aep.com/news  room/intrastateproject.asp.

Source: http://www.therepublicannew...

FEB 9 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1258-major-electric-transmission-line-may-span-county-by-2014
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