West Virginia delays power line decision until 2011

CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA - The West Virginia Public Service Commission has denied a staff recommendation to dismiss an application for a multistate power line, saying it will instead delay a final decision on the three-state project until February 2011.

The decision comes as a Virginia Corporation Commission hearing examiner refused a similar request to dismiss the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH, application in that state. The hearing examiner ruled that PATH's application would be kept to the same decision-making timeline, but he would review the matter in January.

Allegheny Energy and partner American Electric Power have proposed building the 275-mile line from AEP's coal-fired John Amos plant in West Virginia, across parts of northern Virginia, to a substation near Kemptown, Maryland.

Staff lawyers for West Virginia's PSC sought to dismiss the application after Maryland's Public Service Commission dismissed PATH's application in September. Staff argued the Maryland decision meant the 765-kilovolt power line would have a starting point, but no ending point. Virginia Corporation Commission staff made a similar argument.

West Virginia staff also argued any decisions on the line should be delayed until electrical power need projections are updated in February.

In its order, the West Virginia PSC agreed a delay would give the commission more updated information to consider. It also would give PATH developers time to refile their application in Maryland.

The PSC said it will conduct hearings on the PATH's West Virginia application between October 18 and November 2, 2010.

Allegheny Energy spokesman Allen Staggers said the utility agrees with the West Virginia decision.

"That still works well with our schedule," he said.

Both utilities have argued that the line is necessary to ensure reliability of the mid-Atlantic region's electrical distribution system past 2014. The line was authorized in 2007 by PJM Interconnection, which manages the grid system for a 13-state region.

At least 250 groups, representing landowners, The Sierra Club, local county commissions and boards of education are opposed to PATH's construction.


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