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Powerchip face cases of power line communication challenges

15 August 2009 787 views No Comment

CHARLESTON — The state Public Service Commission plans to rely on electronic correspondence to keep a record number of interveners up to speed on the latest filings in its hearings concerning the controversial Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH.
Some 250 individuals and groups had filed as interveners as the PSC began the discovery process on the proposal. Typically, any persons or groups submitting written documents as evidence during discovery must provide enough copies for all the interveners, but PSC Chairman Michael Albert acknowledged that would be a major undertaking in the PATH case.

So the PSC instead is asking for only two copies, which its staff will convert into electronic documents that can be e-mailed or downloaded from the commission’s Web site.

“We don’t want anybody to be required to send out 250 copies of anything if we can possibly do it,” he said.

The PSC kicked off its public hearings about the PATH proposal Aug. 10, moving the first hearing from its headquarters to the larger Culture Center on the Capitol complex in anticipation of a large crowd. About 50 people attended the meeting.

PATH is a proposed 765-kilovolt transmission line that would extend about 275 miles across West Virginia and Maryland. Starting in Putnam County, the line would wind through central and northeast West Virginia, cut through a sliver of Virginia and end in Kemptown, Md.

The project is a joint venture between Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power.

The PSC, which regulates everything from power lines to telephone lines, has 400 days from the time of the application to make a decision.

PATH is separate from Allegheny’s plans to build the 500-kilovolt Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line across northern West Virginia, which already has received PSC approval.

Most of PATH will be in West Virginia and will affect many state landowners as a result. Many of those landowners live in areas of the state where high-speed Internet access is only a dream. Such is the case of John Coleman, a Tucker County farmer who said he has only dial-up access and limited downloading capabilities.

“I would urge the commission to give people the opportunity to opt out of this if it is not working for them,” he said.

Others, such as John Cobb of Lewis County, said they just wanted to make sure the PSC was representing their interests.

“I think as public servants you need to make sure that all people are fairly represented,” he said.

The PSC plans to hold further public hearings on PATH in coming months.
Copyright 2009 West Virginia Media

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