New transmission lines promise more pollution

transmisson lines

conventional produce

Courtesy Allegheny Energy Wall Street Access Conference

By Joy Eggleston

Southwestern Pennsylvania is mountainous, wooded, and dotted with small farms, historical homes, and an abundance of natural resources. Despite this pastoral setting, the American Lung Association named the region’s air-quality second only to Los Angeles for airborne particle pollution.

But while soot levels in California are dropping, those in the Pittsburgh region is likely to rise significantly if Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company, a new affiliate of Allegheny Energy, constructs its proposed 240 mile-long, 500,000 volt power line. If built, the line will destroy property values, forever mar the landscape, and potentially harm the health of the thousands of residents living nearby.

In a recently filed petition with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), the company proposed to run a line from southwestern Pennsylvania, into West Virginia, and then east into Virginia. Ironically, the areas sacrificed to the line have no need for the energy carried by it. Instead, Allegheny Energy will take cheaply manufactured energy from the region’s oldest and dirtiest generation plants and transport it to places where it can be sold for a huge profit. And because the expense of building the line will be passed onto Pennsylvania residents and businesses, the power company will also make a fortune when installing the transmission lines. 

While Allegheny Energy reaps the profits, Pennsylvania citizens can expect higher electric rates, more air pollution and related adverse health effects, and huge electric transmission towers or lines near home or business. 

Even worse, this proposed line is just the start—three more lines are planned. Unfortunately, the Energy Policy Act and the federally created National Interest Electric Transmission (NEIT) Corridors make it easy for power companies like Allegheny Energy to get these huge transmission lines approved. Once a corridor is designated, companies can simply apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee to approve the project and then take the land through federal eminent domain. 

As shown on the map the department of energy has designated proposed corridors covering 50 of the 67 Pennsylvania counties, all of New Jersey and Delaware, and huge portions of New York, West Virginia, Virginia, and Ohio.

The good news is that citizens and elected officials are fighting this project at both the state and federal level. Recently, more than 4000 people signed petitions opposing the line, the Energy Conservation Council of Pennsylvania filed a protest with the PUC, and the Sierra Club,, PALTA, and Virginia’s Piedmont Environmental Council have committed time and resources.

Elected officials opposed to the NIET corridors and the proposed line include State Majority leader, Bill DeWeese, State Representative Tim Solobay, State Senator Barry Stout, and the Greene and Washington County Commissioners. In addition, Congressman Jack Murtha is cosponsoring H.R. 809, bipartisan legislation that will repeal section 1221 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. 


Joy Eggleston serves on the Energy Conservation Council of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She lives on a fourth generation family farm that will be impacted by the lines.