News

Transource delays start date for power line construction

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Nov 6, 2018 9:28 AM
Stop Transource protest.JPG

About 40 people lined up in front of farm equipment at Sunny Acres Farm on Fetterhoff Chapel Road, Mont Alto, to protest the proposed Transource power transmission line on Saturday, Oct. 14. (Amber South/Public Opinion)

The expected date for switching on the Transource power line has been set back five months.

The project to run high voltage lines on 13-story towers through Franklin and southern York counties and northern Maryland has met strong opposition. Transource seeks approval from utility regulators in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Citizen groups have roused local support for their cause and hired legal teams to represent them before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Stop Transource Franklin County on Friday held a dinner and auction to raise money for the cause. The 200-seat event was sold out and participants bid on items worth more than $50,000 - including fly fishing in the Bahamas and stays on a Florida island, at the Isle of Palms in South Carolina and in a cottage at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

Support exceeded expectations, according to auction chairwoman Leah Nitterhouse. She declined to say the amount raised.

"The energy was awesome," Nitterhouse said. "The support we received was overwhelming."

Stop Transource Franklin County has operated on donations for the past year. Jordan B. Yeager of Curtin and Heefner LLP, Doylestown, represents them before the PUC.

Citizens to Stop Transource York and Stop Transource Power Lines MD Inc. also have organized to battle the 230 kV lines designed to bring cheaper electricity to the Baltimore-Washington area.

Transource Monopole Structure.JPG

An image showing a typical double-circuit steel monopole, which is the structure type Transource plans to use for the construction of its proposed transmission lines. (Courtesy)

Transource had originally set opening day for June 1, 2020. The date has been moved to Nov. 1, 2020.

"The extended timeline was in recognition of where we are at this point in the regulatory schedule," Transource spokeswoman Abby Foster said.

"The procedural schedule in Maryland was delayed because Transource missed some deadlines," said Barron Shaw, a member of Citizens to Stop Transource and owner of an orchard on the Mason Dixon Line.

The Maryland Power Plant Research Program wanted to delay the proceedings until they had time to finish investigating environmental impacts, Shaw said.

Transource on Friday sent a list of frequently asked questions to community subscribers of Transource Outreach. It was sent on the day the community auction was held.

Shaw said much of the material in Transource public relations FAQ campaign is "misleading:"

  • Shaw cites the testimony of Transource's Brain Weber to dispute Transource claims that costs have risen just 3 percent in three years above what was factored for inflation. The original $301 million construction estimate for the entire project has grown to $372 million, an actual increase of 23 percent. Transource's portion has grown from $197 million to $226 million, an increase of 13 percent.
  • Shaw also disputes the total project cost. Carrying the debt for the project over 15 years means the project will cost ratepayers $505 million, based on the benefit/cost ratio provided by Transource.
  • The line is intended to relieve congestion on the power grid around Washington, D.C.  Shaw cites Monitoring Analytics data showing that the cost of congestion in a major supply line has dropped from $487 million in 2014 to $22 million in 2017.

PJM Interconnect, which manages the electrical grid in 13 Mid-Atlantic states, accepted a proposal in 2016 from Transource to convey cheaper electricity from the west. The plan calls for running 29 miles of transmission lines from Shippensburg to Ringgold, Md., and 16 miles through York County and Harford County, Md. Farmers, property owners and political leaders have organized to oppose the project.

Transource has updated PJM on the project costs, and PJM has made its own reassessments.

"The cost estimates lost all credibility the moment that PJM released the updated 'benefits' of the project in September," Shaw said. "At that point, Transource knew exactly how much they could raise their estimates and still get over the (benefit/cost) ratio hurdle. It is like having the answer key to a test before you take it."

PUC hearings are scheduled for mid- to late-February, and the regulatory process continues into April. Transource has delayed the construction start to the summer of 2019.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion. 

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