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Powerline project: More public hearings on eminent domain scheduled

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
New Park farmer Jay McGinnis's property, where a high-voltage overhead transmission line could be built. Thursday, July 6, 2017.  John A. Pavoncello photo
  • Construction cannot begin until the project is approved by state regulators.
  • Transource Energy - hired to design, construct and obtain state approvals for the project - is seeking to acquire 133 landowners' easements.

One week after PJM Interconnection officials reiterated that a planned $336.17 million power line project is still needed, York County landowners will get another chance to weigh in at a public hearing.

Transource Energy — hired to design, construct and obtain state approvals for the project — is seeking easements on 133 properties. 

Forty of the applications were to acquire rights to lands owned in York County and 93 applications were to acquire rights to lands owned in Franklin County, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Landowners who received eminent domain notices will have the opportunity to testify next week.

Hearings will be held in Franklin County at 1 and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at the New Franklin Volunteer Fire Department Social Hall, 3444 Wayne Road, Chambersburg.

In York County, hearings will be held at 1 and 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Airville Volunteer Fire Department, 3576 Delta Road, Airville.

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

Public Utility Commission Administrative Law Judges Elizabeth H. Barnes and Andrew M. Calvelli will preside over the hearings.

"Even those individuals testifying before, who may have been focused on different issues, will have another opportunity to testify as to an eminent domain application or shelter petition regarding their property rights," a PUC statement reported. 

Eight public input hearings were held earlier this summer, which drew 1,000 concerned residents and more than 200 speakers, according to the PUC. 

Regional grid operator PJM identified the project as a solution to relieve energy congestion. 

At a meeting Sept. 13, PJM Vice President of Planning Steve Herling reported that a new benefit-to-cost study shows the project is still needed.

More:Proposed powerline in southern York County still needed, grid coordinator says

More:Eminent domain battle looms over Transource project

More:PUC hearing raises questions about power line project in York, Franklin counties

More:Landowners will fight Transource at state level, not county

Residents possibly affected by a power line project had their say at a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission public input hearing. (Jana Benscoter/photo)

Transource Energy Director Todd Burns said he was "pleased" with PJM's assessment that the required minimum 1.25:1 benefit-to-cost ratio exists. The project's re-evaluation revealed a 1.42:1 ratio.  

"The additional electric reliability benefits that were identified make this project even more beneficial to the people in this region,"  Burns said. 

Transource looks forward to "building state-of-the-art facilities to reinforce the electric grid and create access to low-cost electricity for consumers in the mid-Atlantic region," he concluded.

Dolores Krick doesn't see it that way. The landowner said PJM's re-evaluation process is "broken," adding "it is time for people to stop being threatened by an unelected, unaccountable entity responsible to no one."

Gregory Goss, a landowner who aligns with Krick, in May warned that all Pennsylvanians should be upset about this case because it could redefine eminent domain.

“It’s a for-profit, out-of-state private company,” Goss has emphasized. “It’s not the state taking our land. Eminent domain was set up for the government to take property for the need of everyone, especially for everyone in the affected area. This doesn’t warrant that.”