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Public Service Commission suspends consideration of Transource power line project

Public Service Commission suspends consideration of Transource power line project
Transource officials say they are considering using both lattice and monopole towers on their proposed Energy Independence Connection 230KV power line project through part of northwestern Harford County. (Courtesy Transource)

A multi-million dollar project to build new power lines in northern Harford County has been put on hold while the electric company is in settlement talks.

Transource, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, has been hired by PJM Interconnection — a regional transmission organization that manages the power grid for 13 states — for a $372 million project to build 45 miles of new power lines, upgrade existing substations and build new substations in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

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The project would provide congestion relief to power lines and improve reliability, Transource officials said.

The eastern leg of the project would include nearly 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.

Transource filed a motion June 21 with the PSC requesting additional time in the hearing schedule “to explore if there is consensus among stakeholders for an alternative proposal that incorporates changes to the eastern leg of the Independence Energy Connection,” Transource spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said in a statement Tuesday.

Transource wants to determine if those changes should receive further consideration by the Maryland and Pennsylvania commissions, Abbruzzese said.

The Maryland commission issued the order June 27 suspending its procedural schedule because Transource is in settlement talks, according to Tori Leonard, spokesperson for the PSC. The schedule is suspended for 60 days, with a status update to be provided in 30 days, she said.

“It makes us very optimistic,” said Barron Shaw, the owner of Shaw’s Orchard that straddles the Maryland-Pennsylvania line in northwestern Harford County and one of the parties in the case. “As a landholder and for all the others are very optimistic that the light is at the end of the tunnel and it’s a very good light for us.”

Shaw is also part of Stop Transource in Maryland and Pennsylvania, which has joined with individual property owners to stop the power line project that they say is unnecessary when the existing infrastructure in the area could be used instead.

A month ago, in response to questions from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Power Plant Research Program, PJM admitted after two years that Transource could use the two existing power lines rather than build new ones, Shaw said.

One side of the towers that run through the area is empty, he said. If Transource filled the tower, “mirroring” the other side, “it would pass their benefit cost ratio and may not need the IEC East.”

In its testimony, however, Transource says that one of its alternatives, 3A, which includes addition of a third substation, would cost $54 million to $94 million more than what has been proposed and its congestion benefits are $267 million less.

In a hearing before the Public Service Commission June 11, Transource representative Paul McGlynn said Transource would be willing to consider that option.

“If there is a desire on this commission’s part, realizing that there is less congestion benefits … Transource is willing to work with PJM to see if that would be a viable alternative,” McGlynn said.

Harford County government has intervened in the case as an interested party, spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.

“Our position is that the power lines would disturb [agricultural] preservation easements paid for by the county,” Mumby said.

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Through Abbruzzese, Transource sought the county’s support for a potential change in path for the power lines.

Abbruzzese met with the county attorney, Melissa Lambert, who then briefed the Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and Director of Administration Billy Boniface.

“Glassman said the change in path would resolve the county’s ag easement issue but that Transource needed to work with the local citizens’ group on an acceptable solution,” Mumby said.

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