- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

East Coast lawmakers banded together yesterday in a bid to short-circuit a federal decision making it easier to build major power lines.

From New York to Virginia, there is a prospect of new high-voltage line construction after the Energy Department last week proposed a “national interest electric transmission corridor.”

A 2005 law gives the government new authority to approve line construction even if state officials object. Various projects up and down the East Coast have met fierce local resistance including Dominion Power’s plans for a 550-kilovolt power line in Northern Virginia that opponents charge would spoil the beauty of Civil War battlefields.

Yesterday, some lawmakers said they would try to use the annual federal spending bill for water and energy to bar the government from going forward with the plan.

Rep. John Hall, New York Democrat, said his Hudson Valley constituents were “in a fighting mood” and willing to take that fight to Congress.

Blocking the decision through a spending bill would be easier than trying to pass a stand-alone measure. But because it is an annual budget, any such freeze would expire the next year.

The law establishing the electricity corridor is designed to relieve bottlenecks in the national power grid, decreasing the threat of blackouts like the one that swept from Ohio to New York City in 2003.

Critics such as Rep. Michael Arcuri, New York Democrat, who lives about 400 feet from a proposed power line, said the construction would not fix the more important problem of failing local lines.

Rep. Christopher Carney, Pennsylvania Democrat, said a line in his district “is basically a flyover” — doing nothing for the area while providing power to other parts.

The corridor designations could help private industry obtain permits from state regulators or work in conjunction with regional groups to build new lines. Utilities in New York and other states have accused state authorities of being reluctant to approve new lines, often because of local opposition.

Authorities will hold public meetings on the corridors in San Diego, Arlington and New York City.

After the public comment period ends by July, the law calls for state regulators to try to reach agreements on where to build new lines.

If state authorities do not approve any construction after a year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the authority to approve a project if the new line is deemed necessary for national power needs.

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