York County planners concerned about Transource power line project

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
  • The York County Planning Commission is taking a proactive approach – gathering information for farmers, landowners and residents – to determine how the commission will be involved in the next step: the Pennsylvania Utility Commission process.
  • Projects greater than 100 kilovolts and longer than two miles must submit a full application to the Pennsylvania Utility Commission for approval, according to the York County Planning Commission.

The York County Planning Commission is concerned about the effect a proposed high-voltage transmission power line would have on agricultural and game lands in the southern part of the county — and members might weigh in during upcoming public hearings.

Also, officials in at least one municipality are opposed to the Independence Energy Connection project, and they are writing a letter to the county planners spelling out their own concerns.

The planning commission is gathering information to determine how it will be involved in the next step: the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission process. 

A Transource Energy employee explains a preliminary power line map presented to landowners at an open house. Jana Benscoter/photo

PUC process: Projects greater than 100 kilovolts and longer than 2 miles must submit a full application to the Public Utility Commission for approval, according to the York County Planning Commission.  

That means the PUC will be required to hold public hearings on the proposal, and the county planning commission might submit testimony.

The county planners, who have been reviewing the project's initial proposals, are concerned about the "impact the high-voltage power line and associated right of way could have on land use in the county," York County Planning Commission Director Felicia Dell said. 

“The southeastern portion of the county has some of the best contiguous acreages of prime agricultural soils and preserved farms," she explained. "It also includes unique features and game lands.”

Transource Energy is considering two types of structures for its Independence Energy Connection project. One is a Lattice Tower and the other is a Steel Monopole. Submitted/photo

Limited resources: The Fawn Township Board of Supervisors have voted to support the majority of the township's residents, who they say don't want the power line passing through the municipality.

“We think it’s going to have a negative impact on the township,” Supervisor Chairman John Hash said.

The county planning commission has more resources than the township, which is why supervisors are writing a letter to the commission airing their concerns, he said.

“The township ... we’re not looking to get involved and making zoning changes, and hiring our attorneys to deal with it,” Hash said. “We are in a situation where we’re worried about our infrastructure: roads, bridges and pipes. We don’t want them damaged.”

YCPC role: The eastern portion of the $320 million project was presented to the York County Planning Commission earlier this year, Dell said. It could affect residents in Hopewell, East Hopewell, Fawn and Lower Chanceford townships. 

More:Landowners reject Transource Energy's second preliminary map

More:Experts: Landowners in path of power line project should know rights

More:Powerline project could lower bills, disrupt views, spur court battle in York County

Commission staff is attending various public meetings hosted by Transource, she added.

Several key points of discussion, Dell said, include: What is the purpose of the project? Who will it benefit? Why does it have to be in York County? And can it be constructed in a less-intrusive manner?

“This information is to help determine what role, if any, the York County Planning Commission will undertake in the PUC proceedings,” Dell explained.

Final route: Transource Energy, hired to construct the power line, plans to submit its final proposed route to the state PUC this fall, Transource Energy spokeswoman Abby Foster said.

“The team is still in the process of reviewing comments and determining a proposed route,” she said. “The plan is to announce it in early fall and file with the PUC before the end of the year.”

Many of the study segments initially presented have been removed and Transource is soliciting input on the refined preliminary alternative routes, shown here, prior to determining a proposed route to file with state regulators.

Transource hosted 10 open houses this summer in locations where residents, landowners and farmers were expected to be affected by construction of the new power line. They were able to submit their thoughts and concerns to Transource officials at those meetings.

The initial project map was revised based on residents’ feedback, Foster said. The final open house was held in early August.

“We’ve entered all of the comments and map notes and are in the process of responding to each of the questions submitted on the comment cards, by website, by phone and by P.O. box,” Foster said.

According to Transource Energy, a partnership between American Electric Power and Great Plains Energy, the project is needed to increase consumer access to more affordable power in the region.

Transource was hired by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization responsible for managing the high-voltage electricity grid for 13 states, including Maryland and Pennsylvania.

A shifting and growing population, according to PJM Interconnection, is the reason the energy corporation identified a need for the new electricity transmission line. 

Gaining support: Members of Stop Transource in Pennsylvania and Maryland, whose mission is to block the project's approval, are "ecstatic" they are gaining support.

Frank Ayd, who speaks on behalf of its members, said the group has a public-relations professional who's launching several campaigns in the near future. Ayd admits it might be "wishful thinking," but he's now more optimistic that the "future looks dim" for Transource. 

"The number of people, including officials, joining the movement daily is very encouraging," Ayd said. 

York County is in the east segment of the project, which includes about 15 miles of new overhead electric transmission line. The line will connect a new substation to the existing Conastone Substation near Norrisville in Harford County, Maryland.