By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun
7:54 PM EDT, August 8, 2012
The state's power grid operator does not need a $3.3 billion pair of transmission line projects built through Maryland because the weak economy has slowed demand for electricity, the staff of operator PJM Interconnection has concluded.
The staff will recommend that PJM's board cancel the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, or MAPP, and Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH, because its analysis showed they are not needed to maintain reliability of the power grid, according to a presentation PJM released Wednesday.
PJM's staff will recommend removing the projects from a 15-year plan at an Aug. 24 meeting of PJM's board of directors. Headquartered at Valley Forge, Pa., PJM operates parts of the grid from Illinois to New Jersey.
The projects had caused concern among environmentalists and consumer advocates for the impact they could have on the Chesapeake Bay and on utility bills. Adoption of the recommendation would all but kill the projects, which were proposed by energy companies before the recession, when strain on the grid raised concern of future brownouts and rolling blackouts.
The recommendation did not surprise some involved in discussions about the projects.
"It's not unexpected," said Paula Carmody, the Maryland People's Counsel. "The analysis seemed to indicate these lines are not going to be needed."
Carmody and other consumer advocates had stressed a need to justify the transmission lines because of their high cost, which "always trickles down to our ratepayers," she said.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Chesapeake Bay Foundation had expressed concern about MAPP's impact on wetlands, pressing for an objective study of alternatives to determine whether the project was necessary.
"We're delighted to see the project put on hold," said Richard Klein, president of Community and Environmental Defense Services, a company that coordinated an effort of 40 mostly environmental groups. "We never though there was a need."
American Electric Power and FirstEnergy Corp. proposed the PATH project in 2007. It was to be a $2.1 billion, 275-mile transmission line from a substation in Putnam County, W.Va., to a new substation near Mount Airy in Frederick County.
PJM approved Pepco Holdings Inc.'s plans for MAPP also in 2007. It originally was planned to stretch 230 miles from Virginia through Maryland to Delaware, crossing under both the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. The portion from the western shore of the Chesapeake to Delaware was scrapped in 2009.
Projections of electricity use have changed significantly since 2007 because of the recession and increased energy efficiency initiatives, making PJM officials less concerned about grid reliability.
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