- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. Eight state agencies have asked the Maryland Public Service Commission to stop approving new power plants in certain areas until the process can be revised to reflect changes wrought by deregulation.

The request stems from proposals for up to four new or expanded power plants along an eight-mile stretch of the Potomac River in Frederick and Montgomery counties. The moratorium would apply to that region and to any other area in which multiple power plants have been proposed, according to a letter agency chiefs sent to the commission Monday.

The existing rules designed for the old, monopolistic regulatory system do not adequately address such circumstances, said leaders of the state agriculture, economic development, planning, transportation, energy, environment, Smart Growth and natural resources agencies.

The officials said they aim to ensure "neither the state nor any one region will become unduly inundated with power plants."

The Public Service Commission is treating the request as a motion to be considered by hearing officers in three pending cases, commission spokeswoman Chrys Wilson said yesterday. The companies seeking approval to build power plants in those cases will have opportunities to respond, she said.

The state agencies proposed forming a task force that would report back by Dec. 1 with recommendations for changes in the power-plant approval process, particularly in situations where multiple plants are proposed near each other.

Duke Energy, which has applied to build a 640-megawatt, natural-gas-fired plant in rural Frederick County, opposes a moratorium, Duke spokesman Jeremy Dreier told the Frederick News-Post.

"Obviously, we think it's not in the interest of the people of Maryland to have delays built into this process, which accomplish nothing but change the rules in the middle of the game," Mr. Dreier said.

Duke's chosen site is near Point of Rocks, upstream from the Montgomery County community of Dickerson, where Mirant Corp. has applied to expand an existing power plant.

Dynegy Corp. has not filed a formal application, but has expressed interest in another site near Point of Rocks, which boasts a combination of river water for cooling turbines, natural-gas lines for fuel and electrical-transmission lines for sending electricity into the power grid.

Sempra Energy Resources Inc. is considering leasing land at Alcoa's Eastalco Aluminum Co. plant near Buckeystown in Frederick County for a power plant, but has not filed an application.

The Frederick County Commissioners oppose the Duke plant, which they say would violate local land-use zoning and state Smart Growth principles. The county's state lawmakers failed during the 2002 legislative session to get bills passed that would have asserted local zoning control over power-plant siting or created a task force to examine deregulation issues.

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