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New Year's Gift to PA/MD Utility Activist Group

Jan. 8, 2019 – In August 2018, I wrote about the Governor of Maryland weighing in on a transmission proposal by Transource Energy.

The project, called “Independence Energy Connection”, proposed to add two new 230 kV double circuit lines across Maryland-Pennsylvania border.

As a great New Year’s gift to citizen group StopTransource, the Power Plant Research Program (“PPRP”) of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources asked the Maryland’s Public Service Commission to dismiss Transource’s application for a certification of public convenience and necessity (“CPCN”).

The PPRP said that Transource failed to meet state law requiring the examination of alternatives. Specifically, it said that “… it is clear that there was no examination to consider an existing transmission line as an alternative for the eastern segment of the project … prior to filing the CPCN for the project, even though the existing transmission lines appear likely to be both convenient to the service area and to be best promote economic and efficient service to the public.”

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is!

In its opposition to JCP&L’s 230 kV Monmouth County transmission project (“MCRP”), citizen group RAGE demonstrated that JCP&L did not examine alternatives as required by New Jersey requirements except for a “sham” route study that was started almost one year before JCP&L was formally notified of a technical violation of a reliability standard that needed to be addressed.

It is gratifying to see Maryland’s Governor and the Governor’s office in support of their constituents and the citizen group StopTransource.

In the wake of the Northeast cascading blackout, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) to provide significant financial incentives for utility companies (aided by the regional transmission organizations such as PJM whose members are the same utility companies) to build transmission projects.

Unfortunately, many transmission line proposals do not go through a rigorous process and have gone under the radar. Since about 2007, there have been a proliferation of transmission projects proposed and built, regardless of actual need. In New Jersey, the transmission rates for PSE&G, the state’s largest utility company, have gone up by more than 400% since 2010, a short 8 years.

Bruce Meisel, Former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the New Jersey Transit, once told citizen group RAGE that half the battle is showing up. Thanks to activist trailblazers like Keryn Newman and citizen groups such as RAGE in NJ, StopTransource in PA/MD, StopPath in WV, Protect Sudbury in MA, and other groups in California, Santa Fe/New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, etc. there is hope that this madness can be slowed down.

Now with NJ Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ 6), as the new Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, we can only hold out hope to be cautiously optimistic that there would be greater federal oversight and examination whether the existing FERC rules and incentives still make sense.

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