Application to run massive power line through Va. withdrawn

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The backers of a proposed electricity-transmission line from West Virginia to Maryland have asked to withdraw their application to run parts of it through Virginia, citing a study that shows its power will not be needed as soon as they had predicted.

That request is the latest setback for the proposed Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), a joint venture of Pennsylvania-based Allegheny Energy and Ohio-based American Electric Power.

In a filing, the companies say new data suggest that the line's power will not be needed on the East Coast to the degree that was previously projected. The line's backers said they will not file a new application until further studies are completed, which would mean the second half of 2010.

"We remain committed to the project," said David Neurohr, a spokesman for Allegheny Energy. "We're saying we'd better have the full-blown, comprehensive . . . information in our hands before we go forward."

The plan for the PATH is to run a 765,000-volt line over 275 miles, from a substation near St. Albans, W.Va., to a proposed substation near Kemptown, in Frederick County.

In September, Maryland officials rejected a proposal for their state's portion of the line, citing a legal technicality (the line's backers have since re-filed their application).

In a series of public hearings -- in Loudoun County and other places in the line's path -- residents had criticized it as an unnecessary blight on rural areas and scenic views.

The Virginia State Corporation Commission will consider the motion to withdraw the application on Wednesday in Richmond.

News of the request was cheered by the group Earthjustice, which is representing the Sierra Club in opposition to the line.

Earthjustice staff attorney Abigail Dillen said her group had contended that, because of a declining economy and improvements in energy-efficiency, the East Coast did not need the line's power. She said the line would have high environmental costs, because it would bring in energy from coal-burning power plants in the Ohio River Valley.

"We feel really vindicated" by the new data about electrical demand, Dillen said. "Because this is precisely what we've been saying."

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