State PUC rejects Transource power line project proposed in southern York County

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

After an ongoing five-year battle between York County landowners and an energy company, the state Public Utility Commission put the kibosh on plans that would have developed 16 miles of new transmission lines.

The unanimous vote by the PUC's commissioners on Thursday accepted the opinion and order of Judge Elizabeth Barnes, who ruled in December that the project should be rejected because it serves little purpose and would have “detrimental” economic and environmental effects for nearby landowners.

The $372 million project, headed by Transource Energy, originally proposed the development of 16 miles of new transmission lines in Pennsylvania and Maryland, including in York County. Transource has argued the project was needed to reinforce the electric grid, address reliability issues and reduce energy prices in the region.

Barnes, in her 153-page opinion, argued that Transource Energy failed to show a need for the project within the meaning of commission regulations and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code.

This map shows the new proposed route for the Transource Energy powerline.

“Further, the project will have detrimental economic and environmental impacts," Barnes, an administrative law judge for the state PUC, added.

On Thursday, PUC commissioners did not comment on the project or mention Transource in the vote — which included several other agenda items in a single motion.

Dolores Krick, president of Citizens to Stop Transource, said the organization is thrilled that the PUC followed the ruling of Judge Barnes.

"We fought hard to defeat Transource," Krick said via email. "We fought for the farmers and private landowners — and for the Pennsylvania utility customers that ultimately pay for these projects."

Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesperson for the PUC, said on Sunday that staff members are in the process of serving copies of the Transource orders on several hundred parties who are directly involved in the case.

"After all of the direct parties in the case have been notified, the orders will be formally entered on the public dockets," Hagen-Frederiksen said via email. "At this point we expect service to be completed and the orders docketed on Monday."

Existing monopole structures located in southern York County.

Also on Sunday, Transource Energy Director Todd Burns said in a statement that because the order hasn't been posted yet, the company needs time to review the decision and determine the next steps.

"We are disappointed with the commission’s decision not to pursue this project despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits," Burns added. 

Transource's project would have included a new transmission line connecting a new substation in Lower Chanceford Township to the existing Conastone substation near Norrisville in Harford County, Maryland. 

A segment also would have run through Franklin County.

In response to the project, opposition groups — including Citizens to Stop Transource — formed. The organization protested the project's development, which would have crossed about 40 properties in York County. 

In October 2019, Transource filed a new scaled-back route that would no longer have affected those properties, instead expanding the size of the Furnace Run substation, constructing 4 miles of new line in that vicinity, rebuilding portions of existing lines and utilizing some existing structures instead of new infrastructure.

Krick said her group was glad to see the PUC reject the project.

"We proved that the power line that Transource wanted to build had no benefit to Pennsylvania residents, and we believed this project should be denied," Krick said.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.