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Update on Harford high voltage electric transmission line project [Letter]

Editor:

It is important for the members of our community to have up-to-date and factual information regarding the high voltage power line project that has been proposed for northern Harford County. If you’ll excuse the pun, I”d like to shed some light on the situation.

This project, dubbed the Independence Energy Connection Project, includes building high voltage electric transmission lines in two locations in Maryland, Harford County and Washington County, as well as adjoining areas of Pennsylvania. For this project to be constructed, it must be approved in both Maryland and Pennsylvania.

PJM, the entity that manages the electric grid in 13 states including Maryland, has hired Transource to construct the project. PJM is proposing this project because they claim there is “electric congestion” in the grid. PJM is regulated by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The proposed project must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) and also the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) before it can be built as the project includes both states.

Transource has applications in both Maryland and Pennsylvania. In May, four hearings were conducted in Pennsylvania. They were well attended with the vast majority of witnesses opposing the project. Pennsylvania is scheduled to have evidentiary hearings December 4-12, 2018.

A plan for Maryland has been submitted to the Maryland PSC. Transource’s final application for Maryland is due to the PSC by July 13. Sometime in the fall, before mid-November, there will be a public comment period when you may submit written comments to the PSC in response to Transource’s final application.

Sen. JB Jennings and I urged the PSC to hold the required hearing in Harford County rather than the PSC offices in Baltimore City and they agreed. Those hearings will most likely be scheduled for sometime in February of 2019.

Once Transource’s final application is filed and completed in July, dates for public comments and public hearings will be firmed up. Those dates and details will be posted and shared widely.

After the hearings in February of 2019, the PSC has no statuatory deadlines to make a decision, but it is believed that they will make a decision next summer. The PSC can approve, deny, or approve the project with conditions.

During the recent legislative session, there were three bills passed to address the construction of high voltage power lines. I was the sponsor of one bill that will help protect land owners adjacent to these lines. The other two bills require projects to consider routes that are already in use or utility easements owned by others, as well as PSC website notifications.

The final approval for projects like this, which may include eminent domain, still rests with the Maryland Public Service Commission.

As the Transource proposal advances, I will continue to keep the public informed. I am committed to protecting and preserving the rights of landowners and residents of Harford County.

The wants of the PJM or utility customers outside of our county should not take priority over Harford County residents, farms, and businesses. You will see me at the February PSC hearings opposing this project as the proposed route has great impacts on landowners, residents, and our historic agricultural land.

If you have any questions about this or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at kathy.szeliga@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3698.

Del. Kathy Szeliga

District 7, Maryland

House of Delegates

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