The easiest path [Editorial]

The opposition to Transource Energy’s plan to build new power transmission lines through part of northern Harford County has dug in its heels.

Recent history shows that once the opposition digs in, it’s generally a very hard, if not impassable, road to travel for an entity seeking a project’s approval, particularly when community activism in turn raises the hackles of enough of the politicians that depend on those folks’ votes.

Last time we checked, Walmart is planning to expand its Abingdon store on its existing site, rather than building a big new store in the community which some call Bel Air South. More precisely, Walmart had big plans for an even bigger, better store about three miles north on Route 24 near its intersection with Plumtree Road.

After some in the Bel Air South community got organized and started fighting the retail giant, it seemed only a matter of time before Walmart would abandon its plans and move on to Plan B – the existing site.

One of the Walmart opponents, an engineer by trade, drew up basic plans showing how the retailer could stay at its location, renovate the existing part of the old building and add all the space it would gain at the proposed new location. The company’s response was it couldn’t be done.

Once the county government abandoned its support for the project, even though the zoning for the parcel at issue had been changed to accommodate just such a business, it was clear Walmart’s path to approval was disappearing.

Some months later, Walmart announced renovation and expansion plans for its existing location at Constant Friendship Boulevard and Tollgate Road that bore a striking resemblance to the idea the opposition suggested and the retailer rejected.

At the risk of creating false hope among those trying to stop it, what’s happening in northern Harford County with the Transource Energy electricity transmission lines plan is starting to have a look similar to the Bel Air South Walmart battle.

In the power line fight, the resistance is more than just some residents fighting a utility conglomerate.

The county’s delegation to the state legislature has taken up the cause and is working on legislation that would directly affect the project. The Harford County Council and the county government administration also are lined up against the proposal.

At issue is a 3.1-mile stretch of power lines that would be a new set of high voltage transmission towers and cables carrying the electricity from Maryland into Pennsylvania and beyond. Opponents, in an effort to keep from creating new, adverse effects on the community, have suggested that the project follow an already established route where transmission towers have been part of the landscape for a long, long time.

As has happened so often in Harford County, that’s a great idea for all involved, except the power company, because it doesn’t control the existing route. It’s far more cost-effective, i.e. much more profitable, for them to blaze a new route than it would be to follow an existing one.

When this matter is settled, we believe the new route won’t survive the regulatory process and Transource the either will be forced to follow an existing path or give up, as it did with a similar project proposed in other states.

Why shouldn’t Transource just skip a long, drawn-out process, save everyone a lot of angst and effort and just follow the path of least resistance?

It’s as likely as not that will be the route the company takes eventually, anyway.

Copyright © 2019, The Aegis, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad

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