The Harford County Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved terms of a settlement proposed by Transource Maryland for it to use existing infrastructure for the eastern portion of its unpopular power line project, known as the Independence Energy Connection.
Terms of the settlement, which are detailed in an Oct. 17 letter from Transource’s attorneys to the Maryland Public Service Commission, call for the portion of the project that runs through Harford County to be “entirely constructed, owned, and maintained by BGE within BGE’s existing utility rights-of-way.”
“The Settlement balances the need to address the siting concerns related to the construction of a ‘greenfield’ transmission line raised by [Department of Natural Resource’s Power Plant Research Program] and other intervening parties regarding the IEC East, with the need to address the persistent congestion that has been adversely affecting the transmission system in Maryland and the surrounding region for many years,” the letter states.
Several groups and individuals have been fighting for the past two years the original IEC plan to build 45 miles of new power lines, upgrade existing substations and build new substations in Maryland and Pennsylvania, which the company said would provide congestion relief to power lines and improve reliability.
The eastern leg of the project proposed approximately 16 miles of power lines between York County in Pennsylvania and Harford County, including 3.1 miles in Harford ending at the Conastone Substation in Norrisville.
In February 2018, the Harford County Council voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 001-18, stating its opposition to the project and a request that the PSC deny Transource’s application.
Over the summer, Transource requested that the PSC suspend its consideration of the proposal because it was working on a settlement agreement. A 60-day suspension was approved and, after multiple extensions, the settlement agreement was proposed last month.
Harford County was one of several settling parties named in the letter, which also included Stop Transource Power Lines MD and Barron Shaw, the owner of Shaw’s Orchard that straddles the Maryland-Pennsylvania line in northwestern Harford County.
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Using existing infrastructure was not part of the original proposal.
“Several alternative route options for the east segment were introduced during the Maryland regulatory review process," Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Transource, told The Aegis last month. “These alternatives included concepts that utilize existing facilities. As proposed, the alternatives all failed initial reliability tests necessary for further consideration.”
Transource and PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that identified the need for this project, further evaluated the alternatives and determined that by increasing the size of the proposed Furnace Run substation and building about 4 miles of new lines in an existing right-of-way near the substation, portions of the project could use existing electric facilities in the area, Abbruzzese said in October.
Transource would continue to construct, own and maintain the IEC West, which is slated to run through Washington County and parts of Pennsylvania, according to the letter.
New plans for both the eastern and western portions of the project must still be reviewed by multiple state agencies, including the Maryland departments of agriculture, environment, planning, commerce, transportation and the Maryland Energy Administration.
While the settlement has “broad-based support,” according to the letter, the Public Service Commission must still independently determine whether to accept the settlement.
In the letter, Transource’s attorneys proposed a schedule, which would include a yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing in Harford County during the month of December, an evidentiary hearing Dec. 16 and 17, a post-hearing briefing Jan. 21 and a commission decision Feb. 18.