Wednesday, October 8, 2008

RICHMOND | State regulators on Tuesday approved the Northern Virginia segment of a proposed high-voltage power line from Pennsylvania to West Virginia they say will ensure a reliable power source for the mid-Atlantic states.

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) endorsed construction of two sections of the 500-kilovolt transmission line, proposed jointly by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Co. and Dominion Virginia Power.

The commission said the proposed power line meets standards set by Virginia law and must be approved.

West Virginia regulators already have approved that state’s section of the line; Pennsylvania has yet to act.

The $1.3 billion Trans- Allegheny Interstate Line would run roughly 240 miles from Pennsylvania’s Washington County to Loudoun County, through six West Virginia counties.

Proponents have argued the mid-Atlantic region is facing the breaking point because of surging power demands, and Virginia regulators agreed that those anticipated reliability problems “must be fixed.”

After hearings this past summer, an SCC examiner recommended that the commission approve an application for Virginia’s section of the power line.

“The SCC agreed with its hearing examiner that the need for the line had been proven, specifically to cure the reliability problems that will occur on an existing high-voltage line by 2001,” the commission said in a statement announcing the decision.

Regulators said they considered alternatives such as new power plants and conservation and found that the transmission line is the best alternative.

But opponents maintained that Dominion hasn’t done enough to meet Virginia’s energy needs by upgrading equipment, through conservation and other initiatives.

“We believe that Virginians need to take care of Virginia’s problems,” said Robert Lazaro of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “This is about shipping electricity from coal-fired plants to New Jersey.”

Electricity wholesaler PJM Interconnections, which operates the region’s power grid, has said many transmission lines operate close to their limits and may not be able to meet demand in as little as five years.

Opponents in Virginia have included business owners, who fear higher rates, and landowners in Northern Virginia, who said the transmission line will carve up open space.

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