Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Power Line Project Reaches Deal in West Virginia

Allegheny Energy has agreed to give some West Virginia residents free electricity in exchange for permission to build large power lines across their land. West Virginia’s Consumer Advocate has agreed not to contest the project as part of the settlement.

Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate Sonny Popowsky says he has not discussed a similar settlement with Allegheny Energy, and that the utility still faces several hurdles to getting the project approved.

Attorney Will Burns, who represents several power line opponents in southwestern Pennsylvania, says the project may face stronger opposition here than it has in West Virginia. Several residents in Greene and Washington counties have sued to stop it. Opponents say the project is unnecessary and that Allegheny Energy wants to use rural southwestern Pennsylvania to support more energy-hungry areas like northern Virginia.

Still, Burns says there is one aspect of the West Virginia agreement that Pennsylvania residents might find encouraging: a pledge by Allegheny Energy not to use aerial herbicide spraying. That’s been a big concern for farmers.

Hearings on the power line project in West Virginia are scheduled to begin Wednesday. In Pennsylvania, hearings will take place in March. But the state might not have the final say. If the state Public Utility Commission rejects the project, the federal government could overrule it.

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