Political pressure against power line project gains momentum

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
  • PJM Interconnection is reviewing the Independence Energy Connection project, PJM's Chief Communications Officer Susan Buehler said.
  • “This market efficiency problem is not a power issue for York County residents,” Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill wrote.
State representative Kristin Phillips-Hill addresses administrative judges during a prehearing conference regarding Transource Energy powerline applications Monday, July 9, 2018, at the Commonwealth Keystone Building in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg. Transource Energy is asking the state to consolidate its two applications into one case in order to receive approval to construct new overhead power lines in Franklin and York counties. Bill Kalina photo

Politicians are applying pressure to stop PJM Interconnection’s Independence Energy Connection project, but the regional transmission grid operator is continuing with its plan, PJM’s chief communications officer said.

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and state Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, and Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, recently wrote to PJM’s top brass encouraging them to withdraw the proposed $320 million power line project.

“While I understand the need to reduce power congestion in Maryland, I respectfully request that this project be stopped until it can be re-evaluated or until a new route can be considered that utilizes existing rights of way, instead of taking large swaths of actively used farmland,” Hogan wrote.

PJM identified a need to expand and upgrade the regional high-voltage electric transmission system to relieve congested electricity, the company has stated. The project calls for approximately 45 miles of new transmission line in Pennsylvania and Maryland, according to Transource Energy documents. Transource is PJM's contractor developing the proposed site plans for the 230 kilovolt overhead power line project.

More:Eminent domain battle looms over Transource project

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

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wrote to PJM: "I respectfully request that this project be stopped." (Submitted)

A number of landowners in four counties — York and Franklin in Pennsylvania and Harford and Washington in Maryland — would be directly affected by the power line. 

There's not enough evidence to support the project's need for Pennsylvanians, Phillips-Hill wrote to PJM's vice president of planning. The project's benefits must exceed cost by at least 25 percent to be built, according to PJM. 

“This market efficiency problem is not a power issue for York County residents, and no residents are experiencing outages because of this congestion,” Phillips-Hill wrote. “Nor do I see where this project will aid our local Pennsylvania communities with reduced electric costs.”

Opposition has been “strong and consistent,” Saylor wrote in his letter.

"New information continues to be brought forward, including the project's dwindling congestion savings, concerns about increases in the cost of steel and aluminum and the implementation of tariffs on both, and a decrease in the forecasted load use in the D.C. area,” Saylor wrote.

Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, wrote to PJM Interconnection saying, "I respectfully ask that you withdraw the proposed Transource Independence Energy Connection from the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan."

The project “lacks support,” he concluded.

“I respectfully ask that you withdraw the proposed Transource Independence Energy Connection from the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan,” Saylor wrote.

Project plans include using 135-foot monopoles and construction of two new substations in Pennsylvania, as well as upgrades to two existing substations in Maryland, Transource documents show. 

“The typical right-of-way is 130 feet wide for safe construction, operation and maintenance of the facilities,” Transource reported in its project documents. “Typical regional farming practices can continue within the right-of-way, right up to the structure, and landowners will be fairly compensated for easements required to build the line, as well as potential impacts or crop loss during construction and restoration.”

Transource PA has filed 133 eminent domain requests in the commonwealth, but they have not been approved. 

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

Transource is responsible for obtaining “necessary approvals from Pennsylvania and Maryland authorities,” PJM Chief Communications Officer Susan Buehler explained.

PJM "re-evaluates" board-approved market efficiency transmission projects annually, she wrote in an email. The Independence Energy Connection is currently under review "to ensure that state officials have the most up-to-date information," she said.

The review is slated for completion in September, Buehler added.