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Many concerned residents attend the Transource prehearing conference in Harrisburg, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

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Standing before a packed hearing room at the Public Utility Commission, Ross McGinnis relayed the frustration of many in the room who want to be heard regarding a proposed overhead power line in southern York County and Franklin County. 

“These people deserve to be heard, they deserve to have the time and the opportunity to speak,” the York County attorney said at the prehearing conference. “And this issue should not be confined to a mere number of weeks or months. It’s going to take years, your honor. And they need to be heard, they deserve to be heard, and they should be heard. I appeal to you to give them an opportunity to be heard. All of them.”

Landowners arrived on two buses at the PUC building Tuesday, March 13 — one from York County and one from Franklin County — for a prehearing conference on the $320 million Independence Energy Connection project. 

Transource Energy was hired by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission grid operator, in June 2017 to construct the power line. Transource is a Pennsylvania public utility and now needs approval from Public Utility commissioners to begin construction. 

Administrative Law Judges Elizabeth Barnes and Andrew Calvelli on Tuesday adopted the Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate’s schedule for hearings on the project.

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Darryl Lawrence, Pennsylvania senior assistant consumer advocate, said the judges, project contractor Transource Energy and the Office of Consumer Advocate each presented a schedule.

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“What the judges adopted was the (Office of Consumer Advocate's) position as to a schedule,” Lawrence said. 

Tentative dates for the public input hearings are Wednesday, May 9, and Tuesday, May 15, in York County and Tuesday, May 22, and Wednesday, May 23, in Franklin County. Locations are to be determined. There will be one input hearing in the morning and one in the evening at each site. 

Barnes told the roughly 140 people in the audience, “I appreciate that many of you have taken time off work to be here today.”

“And you're good people, obviously,” she said. “You have your farms, farms that have been in the family business for a number of years, and the commission is interested in what you have to say. The commission will not be approving any applications without your input and without making certain determinations that there is a need for the project to impact that land.”

Lawrence said the Independence Energy Connection project is a “complex case” in which commissioners need to hear as much input from affected landowners as possible.

Transource Energy officials have said the completion date of the three-year project is 2020.

“It’s still a viable date,” Lawrence said. “But it has been in our experience, though, that those dates tend to change.”

Lawrence said the Office of Consumer Advocate wants “to give consumers in Pennsylvania a full, fair and open opportunity to comment on this matter, so their participation is critical.”

"No one's lights are going to go out if this project is not put into service in 2020," Lawrence said to the judges when supporting the OCA's schedule. 

The PUC will consider each segment’s final proposed route to address the problems on the high-voltage grid that were identified by PJM Interconnection, Transource spokeswoman Abby Foster has said. The maps were designed based on landowners' comments and concerns.

PUC commissioners also will evaluate why Transource selected the final proposed map versus two previous maps, Foster said.

 

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