Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has become the latest voice to weigh in on the controversial Independence Energy Connection project that has riled up many northern Harford County residents, as well as their neighbors across the border in Southern York County, Pa.
The planned construction of new overhead power lines to relieve power distribution congestion in the region dominated the news in both counties last summer. Review of the project is before regulatory agencies in both states, in Maryland it’s the Public Service Commission that will have the final say.
Hogan, a Republican running for a second term and who counts Harford County – particularly northern Harford – as one of his strongest bastions of political support, is seeking a pause and a re-evaluation of the $320 million IEC project being developed by Transource Energy for PJM Interconnection, the regional power grid operator that controls the movement of electric power across 13 states, including the two most affected by IEC.
Residents of the affected counties say the proposed power lines will damage ecologically sensitive areas, as well as land preserved though agricultural and conservation easements paid for by tax dollars. They have also attacked the project – correctly in our view – as having zero benefit for consumers in Harford and York counties.
As reported in Friday’s edition of The Aegis by David Anderson, Hogan is pressing to, at the very least, have the proposed new power lines follow existing power line rights-of-way, a multitude of which can be found in both counties
In a July 10 letter, to the chairman of PJM, Hogan cited the need to protect local farmland as a key reason for his request that the Independence Energy Connection project “be stopped until it can be re-evaluated or until a new route can be considered that utilizes existing rights-of-way, instead of taking large swaths of actively-used farmland.”
Surely Hogan’s voice, added to hundreds of others who have already sounded off about the project, will carry some weight in what has been an unnecessary debate. The Transource and PJM folks have not made much sense in explaining their opposition to using existing rights-of-way, other than they don’t control them. Condemning a substantial swath of land across two states will involve a lot of time and money, to the point where it could be years because the IEC project ever gets off the ground. If it is so necessary, then such a delay would certainly seem to be a potential deal breaker.
Hogan can’t stop IEC, but he did appoint all five current PSC members, including Jason M. Stanek, the chairman, who took office July 1. We would say the governor’s message to Transource and PJM ought to be a strong enough one to force a major reconsideration of the Independence Energy Connection and their approach to bringing it through Harford County, if at all.