The federal government has granted itself eminent domain authority to site transmission lines in 42 West Virginia counties, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Oct. 2.
The 42 counties are part of a Mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor the DOE has created, along with a Southwest Area National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor, to ensure the supply of electricity to high-population areas.
"These National Corridors serve as an important indication by the federal government that significant transmission constraint or congestion problems exist," Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said on announcing the corridors. "The goal is simple: to keep reliable supplies of electric energy flowing to all Americans."
National Corridor, or NIETC, designation allows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to step in if state authorities do not approve electric transmission applications within one year.
"West Virginia and the Public Service Commission have always done an exceptional job of siting lines ... and they do so in a timely manner," said Joe Ward, representing Gov. Joe Manchin at a June public meeting on the national corridor designation. "That an outright denial is grounds for FERC to come into and take over the process is extremely troubling to the governor and the state of West Virginia."
"Generally, if an applicant does not receive approval from a state to site a proposed new transmission project within a National Corridor within a year, FERC may consider whether to issue a permit and to authorize construction of the project," DOE Assistant Secretary Kevin M. Kolevar confirmed in the release.
Four more West Virginia counties are included in the designation than the DOE put out for public review.
In addition to all 38 counties as far south as Jackson, Roane, Clay, Nicholas and Pocahontas, the DOE announced that Boone, Kanawha, Mason and Putnam counties will be subject to the federal eminent domain authority as well.
Two proposed transmission lines - Allegheny Energy's 500-kilovolt Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line across northern West Virginia and the 765-kilovolt Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline that Allegheny and AEP want to construct from the Amos substation in Putnam County northeast into Maryland - fall within the newly designated counties.
The PSC has received voluminous comments from residents opposing Allegheny's Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line. The commission will hold public and evidentiary hearings in the fall and will make its decision by April 2008.
Allegheny and AEP expect to apply to the PSC for approval to construct the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline in the fall of 2008.
West Virginia State Journal: http://www.statejournal.com
Information on National Corridors: http://www.nietc.anl.gov