PITTSBURGH – If the U.S. Department of Energy is allowed to designate a large area of Pennsylvania and the Northeast United States for transmission lines, a Rendell administration official said today such a move would possibly supplant states’ rights and could lead to the construction of unnecessary power lines. Daniel Griffiths, director of Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Energy Innovations and Technology Deployment, testified before the Department of Energy Thursday about its proposed Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor.
“The Department of Energy’s broad designation of the Mid-Atlantic Corridor, which includes much of Pennsylvania, combined with the siting process recently adopted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may lead to projects in Pennsylvania that ignore the nation’s best interests and the critical concerns of states,” said Griffiths, who spoke on behalf of Gov. Edward G. Rendell. “Governor Rendell fears the breadth of this corridor—as outlined by the federal government—may lead to projects that harm Pennsylvania without any balance of benefits. “Also, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ability to disregard a state’s evaluation of a proposed project undermines the notion of states’ rights and may force Pennsylvania and others to accept projects that are far from the best choice.
“We urge the Department of Energy to withdraw its designation and postpone any decision until it is clear that states are unable to site necessary transmission facilities or identify reasonable alternatives,” Griffiths said.
Griffith’s testimony follows a letter by Rendell to Energy Department Secretary Samuel W. Bodman, which stated similar concerns.
In the letter dated June 8, Rendell said the Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor, as outlined by the Department of Energy, is so expansive that it is meaningless. The governor argued that if the Department of Energy must designate such areas to protect the reliability of transmission capacity and the country’s best interests, it should have identified specific needs and routes necessary to meet those demands.
Rendell also voiced his concern that because such a vast portion of Pennsylvania’s geography has been designated as potential sites serving the nation’s best interest, the commonwealth may be forced to accept projects that serve the other states more so than the Keystone State.
“Pennsylvania and other states face the possibility that transmission lines can be located almost anywhere and qualify for designation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Griffiths said. “Can a corridor that includes 50 of our 67 counties realistically be related to actual transmission options? And, because we cannot recall an instance when the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has denied a power line application, we must ask why the need for this authority?
“Transmission lines could be built on our soil and not benefit our residents,” Griffiths said. “The commonwealth has worked aggressively over the last four-and-a-half years to expand its clean and renewable energy production industries,” said Griffiths. “These investments have created 2,500 new jobs, attracted nearly a billion dollars in new investment to the state and have moved us towards an energy independent future. “We are concerned that many of the proposed transmission lines bypass parts of our state where clean, new generation is coming online and, instead, pulls power from old, dirty plants to the east and south of us. Those lines are a ‘loss’ for Pennsylvania’s economy and environment.”
In the letter to Bodman, Rendell also asks if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will adequately consider alternative technologies and routes–something the commission’s final order does not seem to address. While noting a section of the final order, paragraph 179, the governor said the language suggests that a proposed project alone can define FERC’s scope of review, in other words, allowing the commission to ignore other options.
The governor said this rule leaves far too much uncertainty and warrants further explanation.