For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club 804-225-9113 x 102

Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice 212-791-1881 x221

Experts Raise Concerns About New Transmission Line from Coal Country to Eastern Grid

PATH would make grid less reliable, increase air pollution

In the
latest of a series of setbacks for the proposed Potomac-Appalachian
Transmission Highline (PATH), engineering, air and electric experts
submitted testimony finding that (contrary to developer claims)
the line would actually make the eastern grid less reliable and
lead to increased air pollution. Proposed by American Electric Power
(AEP) and Allegheny Power, PATH is a high-voltage transmission line
which would be constructed through West Virginia,
Virginia and Maryland, at a cost of more than $1.8 billion to
The experts, testifying on behalf of
the Sierra Club, include George Loehr and Hyde Merrill, nationally
renowned electric experts, Chris James of Synapse Energy Economics,
Inc. (a former EPA employee and
Director of Air Planning for Connecticut), and Robert Fagan, also of
Synapse, a mechanical engineer and energy economics expert. Their
testimony concludes that the line is not needed; that cheaper, simpler
alternatives are available; and that “[r]ather than
increase reliability, PATH would actually make it worse.”
“It’s like running an extension cord
down the block to plug your toaster into a neighbor’s outlet rather
than plugging it into an outlet in your own kitchen,” said George
Loehr. If PATH is constructed,
he testified, “major East Coast cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore,
Washington and Richmond would become more vulnerable to interruptions
and blackouts, either from natural phenomena or from terrorist attacks”
on transmission lines.
The expert testimony also validated concerns
raised by environmental and community groups about increased pollution
from coal-fired power plants. Chris James, an expert with over 20 years
of experience in state and
federal air programs, determined that air pollution and greenhouse gas
emissions would increase as a result of PATH, making it more difficult
for Virginia, Washington D.C., and Baltimore to meet air quality
standards, and contributing to eastern smog and haze.
He explained that because electricity garners a higher price on the
east coast, PATH would provide an incentive-- and an opportunity-- for
coal-fired power plants in West Virginia and the Midwest to increase
their output and sell more electricity to east coast
cities. Increased pollution would follow.
“PATH is a boondoggle for ratepayers and a gift
to coal companies,” said Abigail Dillen of Earthjustice. “We urgently
need a smart electric grid that supports wind power and other clean
energy projects, but AEP and
Allegheny Energy are trying to sell us on lines that will only help
dirty old coal plants to ramp up profits – and pollution.”
“We keep hearing from AEP and Allegheny
the mantra that this line will shore up our electrical grid and is
desperately needed to keep the lights on. Now we have a clear,
documented explanation of why that’s
not true,” said Elena Saxonhouse, with the Sierra Club.

The expert testimony was submitted by
the Sierra Club as part of formal proceedings before the Virginia State
Corporation Commission. The Commission has the authority to approve or
deny PATH in the state.
The Commission is accepting public comment until January 12, 2010,
hearings begin January 19, and a decision is expected sometime before
May 2010.

Sierra Club is represented in the
Virginia PATH proceedings by the non-profit law firm, Earthjustice. The
Club is also a party in the Maryland and West Virginia PATH proceedings
and expects to submit similar
expert testimony in those states.
Additional Materials:
Full testimony

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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