Foes doubt study that says power line would create 100+ jobs

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch

A citizens campaign to stop a power line from being constructed in southern York County continues to gain momentum, regardless of a recently released economic study that supports the project's economic impact.

Transource Energy has decided to use monopole structures in its $320 million "Independence Energy Connection" project. Submitted/photo

York and Franklin counties, as well as Harford County, Maryland, stand to benefit from construction of an overhead power line, economists at The Brattle Group in Washington, D.C., concluded.

The study says that the Transource Energy Independence Energy Connection project will “support 112 to 147 full-time jobs, stimulate $35.7 million to $43.6 million in economic activity, and generate $1.7 million to $2 million in new tax revenue in Pennsylvania and Maryland during construction.”

However, Barron Shaw, vice president of Citizens to Stop Transource, said he’s not surprised that The Brattle Group, paid by Transource, used Transource data to “come up with some numbers that benefit Transource.”

“The IEC has no benefit for Pennsylvania and very little benefit for Maryland,” Shaw, the owner of Shaw Orchards in White Hall, Maryland, said.

More:Transource Energy goes to court for access to 36 York County properties

Approval: Transource — a Pennsylvania utility — must obtain approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to construct the "market efficiency" project, according to the PUC.

According to PJM, the regional transmission grid operator that hired Transource, the project's benefits must exceed costs by at least 25 percent, which is something Shaw said he is skeptical about. 

He said he's concerned that "steel tariffs or inflation" weren't included in calculations.

York County is considered the East portion of the project, and Franklin County is considered the West portion of the project.

“On the IEC-East, there are at least three businesses that will directly suffer from power lines, dozens of properties will lose a significant amount of value, Franklin County tourism will suffer, and the tax base that is so important to our schools will be eroded as landowners ask for reassessments," Shaw said. "And these costs will trickle down to other businesses and neighbors.”

After receiving public input, Transource altered its plan for a power line through York County to use monopoles that would have impact on local farming practices. (Photo courtesy of Transource)

Transource: Transource is responsible for $230 million of the $320 million construction project, Transource spokeswoman Abby Foster said. 

The energy company was hired in June 2017 to construct the power line. Transource plans to have the transmission lines operating by 2020. 

Foster said construction contractors haven't been selected yet, but Transource will make every effort to hire local workers "as much as possible."

She confirmed that Transource hired The Brattle Group to do the study. 

"While PJM Interconnection determined the need and benefit related to the electric cost-savings for the region, Transource is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the project," Foster said. "As such, the study was requested by Transource to provide the community answers for the benefit related to the company’s role in this project."

Support: According to Transource Director Todd Burns, these "large-scale economic development projects" not only "strengthen the infrastructure that we all rely on" but also "supply family-sustaining jobs for skilled, local workers and support economic growth in the project areas."

One of the project's supporters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said the transmission lines are part of a bigger picture. 

"We're sitting on one of the biggest gas pockets in the country," IBEW business representative Bernie Kephart said. 

"You gotta have these lines," he said. "No sense in putting the gas lines in and putting the power plants in if you're not going to put the power lines in to carry the electricity to the cities and the rural areas."

Transource Energy's proposed power line would run 16 miles from Lower Chanceford Township in York County to northern Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Transource)

York County Economic Alliance CEO Kevin Schreiber said that despite the anticipated economic impact from Transource's proposed multimillion-dollar construction project, his organization hasn't taken a formal position on the power line at this time.

"As York County growth occurs, we need to strike a balance between reliable energy delivery to residents and businesses and the changes to our county landscape, farmland, preservation or real estate potential,” Schreiber said. 

Schreiber said he encourages York County residents to familiarize themselves with the project and to participate in the upcoming PUC public hearings.

Hearings: York County public input hearings are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, and Monday, May 14, at Airville Volunteer Fire Co., 3576 Delta Road. 

In Franklin County, hearings are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, and Wednesday, May 23, at the New Franklin Fire Co. Social Hall, 3444 Wayne Road, Chambersburg.