Two coal-burning energy companies are withdrawing plans to build a multi-billion dollar transmission line from Appalachia to East Coast cities -- the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH line. The announcement came with a concession that the new line is not needed to address electricity demand in the foreseeable future.
The proposed PATH line would have flooded Northeast cities with dirty coal energy and made it harder for renewable clean energy to get a toehold in eastern power markets. The PATH line would also have saddled ratepayers with extra costs for years to come. The companies decided to abandon their pending application for approval of the PATH project in Virginia after stiff opposition from Earthjustice and Sierra Club prompted the Virginia State Corporation Commission to order new analyses to assess the need for the power line in light of decreased electricity demand, significant efficiency gains, and a dramatic rise in the availability of demand side management resources over the past few years.
As predicted by the conservation groups' experts, the new analyses revealed that the PATH line will not be needed in 2014 as PATH's proponents had previously claimed. In papers filed with the Virginia state commission on Tuesday, representatives for the companies stated: "These developments raise questions about the ability of PATH-VA to support the Application now on file with the Commission that is based on the need for the PATH Project in 2014."
Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen said, "AEP and Allegheny Energy have been crying wolf to boost profits from dirty old coal plants. It's no longer possible to take these companies seriously when they say that they need to increase dependence on coal-fired power to keep the lights on."
Proposed by American Electric Power (AEP) and Allegheny Power, the high-voltage PATH line would have run through West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland, at a cost of more than $1.8 billion to ratepayers.
Experts, testifying on behalf of the Sierra Club, found that the proposed transmission line would have made the eastern grid less reliable and increased air pollution. This testimony also validated concerns raised by environmental and community groups that the project would increase pollution from coal-fired power plants. Read expert testimony against the PATH transmission line here.
"It is critical that these utilities invest in efficiency and renewable energy and begin to move away from coal," said Glen Besa, Director of the Sierra Club in Virginia. "Perhaps this delay will prompt them to reassess not only the PATH power line but how they meet future electricity needs."
Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club in the Virginia proceedings challenging the permit to build the line in that state.