Examiner backs Va. power line withdrawal

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A hearing examiner is recommending that Virginia regulators approve the withdrawal of an application to build a power transmission line across northern Virginia while utilities reassess the need for the $1.9 billion multistate project.

The conditional recommendation issued Wednesday now heads to the State Corporation Commission, which can accept, amend or reject the report by Alexander F. Skirpan Jr.

PATH Allegheny Virginia Transmission Corp. has proposed a 275-mile transmission line from a coal-fired plant in West Virginia, 31 miles across three counties in northern Virginia, to a substation near Kemptown, Md.

In December, however, the power companies proposing the high-voltage line said it won’t be needed by 2014 to ensure reliable electrical power to the Northeast, and said they needed to conduct new energy-load analyses.

Allegheny Energy Inc. and American Electric Power, which are proposing the power line, said they intend to refile the Virginia application once those estimates are completed. Regulatory reviews in West Virginia and Maryland are continuing with the expectation the new analyses will be completed for review in those states.

Opponents of the power line have sought an outright rejection of the project and compensation for their expenses fighting the proposal. Skirpan said the commission lacks the authority to award those expenses.

Abigail Dillen, representing the Sierra Club, said Skirpan’s recommendation was not a surprise, but she was pleased with one of his recommendations — that the utility analyses include “changes in generation, demand response and energy efficiency resources …”

Dillen said the driving force behind the power line is “the perception that people need more electricity” and trends reflecting conservation and lower electrical use is not immediately recognized by utility projections.

“A lot of states have new efficiency measures, which should be changing demand projections,” she said.

The energy companies have argued that the power line is needed to feed the Northeast’s growing hunger for energy. They have warned that blackouts could result if it isn’t built.

The projections were developed by PJM Interconnection, which manages the grid system for a 13-state region. PJM has said it will have its new projections later this year.