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Opposition to TrAIL Power Line Strengthens in West Virginia
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by Duane Nichols | 2007

The Chapter joins with other environmental and community groups in opposing a 240-mile power transmission line

The diverse opponents of the proposed new TrAIL electric power transmission line are dedicated to bringing a halt to the project. This 240 mile line includes 114 miles in West Virginia and will consume an estimated 7500 acres of land here.

The cooperating organizations that oppose the line include the WV Environmental Council, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition, the Ft.Martin Community Association, the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Halleck-Triune Community Association, Laurel RunWatershed Association, WV Highlands Conservancy, WV Inter-faith Global Climate Change Campaign, Capon Valley Coalition, Laurel Mountain Preservation Association and others.

Don Corwin Jr, President of the Halleck Community Association says that “West Virginians are being forced into a position where we are giving up our property rights for a power line that passes through the heart of our communities, does not benefit us, and we have to pay for it. This is the ultimate example of bad business in West Virginia.”

Allegheny Energy submitted an application for the transmission line in March. The 240-mile line consists of 140-foot tall support towers and overhead wires carrying up to 500,000 volts. It would transport electricity from local power plants to the east coast states. Two proposed transmission line routes through West Virginia have been submitted to the WV Public Service Commission by Allegheny Energy. In either case, the line would come south from Washington and Greene counties in Pennsylvania then pass through the counties of Monongalia, Marion, possibly Taylor, Preston, Tucker, Grant, and Hampshire in West Virginia, and then pass through northern Virginia.

Opposition to the line is extremely strong in both Pennsylvania and Virginia. Allegheny Energy avoided Maryland all together, apparently to avoid opposition in that state, despite the fact that the shortest distance for this line would have been through Maryland and not northern West Virginia. Lew McDaniel of the Laurel Run Watershed Association believes that “This really is a battle between rural and urban America. We are a nation that fights wars over equal values, which means a green space covered with trees deserves the same consideration as a city lot covered with asphalt. Yet here we are trying to preserve over 7000 acres of our property in the face of unbridled demand for electricity in other states.”

Primary concerns of the groups are that: (1) current eminent domain rules and practices are not fair to property owners and other residents since the right-of-way will be seized without just compensation for reduced property values for all those near the line, (2) land disturbances will be extensive, surface and ground water flows will be affected, the natural beauty of the region will be substantially degraded, and these disturbance will prevail for many decades to come, essentially forever, (3) a new line will give added life to old power plants that generate extremely large volumes of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas affecting climate change, as well as other pollutants, (4) and, of equal significance, the line will not serve the electric customers of West Virginia in spite of the fact that local electric bills are being increased already to pay for the planning, permitting, engineering, construction and operation of this line.

“I am not aware of any previous application for a transmission line that has ever been turned down by the WV PSC,” said Jim Kotcon, President of the West Virginia Environmental Council. “But there has never been such strong opposition from so many diverse groups to such a transmission line. This one is truly a bad idea for West Virginia, and Allegheny is proposing it simply because it is an easy way to make money by gouging the ratepayers.”

According to Bill Golemon of the Capon Valley Coalition, “Allegheny Power has not adequately considered other alternatives to the power line or made a convincing case that it is really necessary.”

Concern is also being expressed over the recent designation of 42 counties in West Virginia as part of a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC), under the US Energy Policy Act of 2005. The designated counties include Kanawha and essentially all the state north of Kanawha. Federal eminent domain authority now applies, which supercedes State authority for high voltage electric transmission lines, should the US Department of Energy decide to use the authority. These regulations have not yet been tested in the federal courts, as the designation attempts to overrule the rights of the States that may have constitutional superiority.

The WV Public Service Commission will hold public hearings at 9:00 am on November 28th and 29th in Charleston. Anyone interested in the proposed power line may appear at any of these public comment hearings and make statements if relevant to the line, and/or send written comments to the Public Service Commission, ATTN: Sandra Squire, 201 Brooks Street, Charleston, WV 25323. Correspondence should designate the TrAIL Case Number: 07-0508-E-CN.

See also the following web site: www.notowersinwv.org, or westvirginia.sierraclub.org. For further information, contact: Duane Nichols, (mailto:duane330@aol.com), 304-599-8040.

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