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Bill would push high-voltage power-line setback to 300 feet in Maine

Lawmakers on the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee heard testimony on a bill that would require lines transmitting 5,000 volts of power or more to be at least 300 feet from homes, schools, churches and licensed day care centers, among other places.

AUGUSTA - The electromagnetic fields from high-voltage power lines and how far those lines should be from homes or other places where children congregate was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night.

Lawmakers on the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee heard testimony on a bill that would require lines transmitting 5,000 volts of power or more to be at least 300 feet from homes, schools, churches and licensed day care centers, among other places.

Supporters of the bill pointed to studies that show children who grow up next to high-voltage lines are more likely to develop childhood leukemia and other diseases, but opponents disputed those studies, saying they were inconclusive.

The bill, LD 950, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R- Chelsea, aims to limit children's exposure to electromagnetic fields, but critics said the bill could have a chilling effect on the development and expansion of energy infrastructure in Maine.

Sanderson said she sponsored the bill for a constituent, Wanda Curtis of Chelsea, a nurse and activist who spoke to the committee Tuesday.

Curtis, who holds a master's degree in nursing, said she... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

AUGUSTA - The electromagnetic fields from high-voltage power lines and how far those lines should be from homes or other places where children congregate was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night.

Lawmakers on the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee heard testimony on a bill that would require lines transmitting 5,000 volts of power or more to be at least 300 feet from homes, schools, churches and licensed day care centers, among other places.

Supporters of the bill pointed to studies that show children who grow up next to high-voltage lines are more likely to develop childhood leukemia and other diseases, but opponents disputed those studies, saying they were inconclusive.

The bill, LD 950, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R- Chelsea, aims to limit children's exposure to electromagnetic fields, but critics said the bill could have a chilling effect on the development and expansion of energy infrastructure in Maine.

Sanderson said she sponsored the bill for a constituent, Wanda Curtis of Chelsea, a nurse and activist who spoke to the committee Tuesday.

Curtis, who holds a master's degree in nursing, said she lost a sister to childhood leukemia. She said research she has compiled shows Maine needs to better ensure children and others are protected from electromagnetic fields.

Pool studies conducted by the World Health Organization suggest children exposed to electromagnetic fields from high-voltage lines could be two times more likely to develop leukemia as children than those who are not exposed, Curtis said.

She said one study showed a fourfold risk. Curtis said she worries particularly about a home with small children near hers where a 115,000-volt line runs across the driveway.

Central Maine Power, which purchased a right of way from the homeowners, plans to expand that line to 345,000 volts as part of its Maine Power Reliability Program, which includes a power-line expansion through Central Maine.

Curtis said she questioned the expansion for five months and what that expansion would mean for electromagnetic fields in her neighborhood.

"We have to look after Maine children," Curtis said. "Because, let me tell you, Chelsea is not the only place where children are living very close to the lines."

State law currently does not require a minimum setback for power lines, according to the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford.

"My understanding has been that we have to be very careful about how close these lines come to our children and our homes and in some cases, I think probably several cases, they are coming way too close," Boland said.

Opponents said the studies were based on theory and were neither comprehensive nor conclusive. They said that if the bill were to pass as written, nearly all power lines in the state would be out of compliance.

"Practically speaking, it's not feasible," said Jay Nutting, a lobbyist speaking on behalf of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service. "The average line running down the street to serve residential consumers, customers or businesses is approximately (15,000 volts) and those lines are generally well within 300 feet of homes and businesses."

David Allen, a lobbyist for CMP, said his company had about 3,000 miles of transmission-line corridors in Maine. People often misunderstand the size of those corridors and the company's previously obtained rights of way for expansion, he said. Many of those corridors date back to the 1920s.

"Since that time, people have built houses closer and closer to the corridors," Allen said. He said nearly 90 percent of the company's Maine Power Reliability Program transmission-line expansion was built on existing corridors.

"If you passed a bill saying, 'No more transmission lines,' I'm talking even the big ones, within 300 feet of a dwelling or other structure, that would render a lot of our transmission lines as useless, worthless to us because we could no longer utilize them," Allen said.

Lawmakers on the committee seemed mixed on the issue. Several asked whether the bill would be workable if it were changed to increase the voltage so that only the largest power lines would face the setback requirement.

At least one, Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick, wanted to know what the rules were in Spain, the home of Iberdrola, CMP's parent company.

Beavers said she did not know for sure but believed the setback there was 300 feet.

Allen said he would try to find out and would bring that information to the committee when it works on the bill in the weeks ahead. The bill likely will face a committee vote in April.


Source: http://www.sunjournal.com/n...

MAR 28 2013
https://www.windaction.org/posts/36701-bill-would-push-high-voltage-power-line-setback-to-300-feet-in-maine
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