May 24 – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) voted unanimously last week to deny a $372 million project from Transource Energy that would have laid 16 miles of new transmission lines, stretching across a huge swath of southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.
This has been an ongoing debate for, quite literally, two or three years.
A group of property owners and concerned citizens formed Stop Transource when the project was first announced and their organized efforts did make a difference.
They did, indeed, stop Transource.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the vote this morning on First News.
“This was a great confirmation that the PUC did yesterday,” Barkdoll said. “The full PUC board had to vote to either ratify or deny the opinion that Judge Barnes made. It was really several months ago that Judge Barnes issued that very thorough, lengthy opinion that sort of synthesized all of the testimony, all of these hearings that had occurred over the past few years. She ultimately recommended that this project should not be approved. There was simply no evidence that it was beneficial to residents of Pennsylvania, which is one of the hallmarks, it’s one of the criteria when the PUC has to approve or deny these things.”
The decision of the PUC board was quite a victory for Franklin and Washington counties.
Barkdoll said, “It was damaging not only from an economic development standpoint, but from a tourism standpoint, real estate value standpoint and all of those things were mentioned in Judge Barnes’ opinion. This was a great example, too, where grassroots citizens can really make a difference in the outcome of these things. When this project started, a lot of people had this defeatist attitude, (believing) there is nothing we can do to stop it. But people very smartly organized, they got together, they got their case and their points out there in the public hearings and I really think in the end it made all the difference in the world.”
Jansen noted, “I give the Stop Transource movement the credit. We covered those meetings, we kept pounding on the local elected officials who stepped up. We had commissioners step up, Rob Kauffman stepped up, others stepped up to voice their concerns. We kept saying there’s no benefit to Pennsylvanians. We also had in the company that was doing this and we allowed them to make their case as well. This really did work out in the people’s favor. This is where it counts. People have got to get out there and let their voices be heard because it will work if you make your voices heard.”
Barkdoll added, “I’ll give credit to the radio station on. We interviewed that professor from South Carolina that was doing the leading research in the country about how high voltage power lines had an adverse effect on real estate values. He had sort of a radius. Here’s how much it would decline if you were in so many yards. I presented testimony on that at the hearing that Judge Barnes held at New Franklin Fire Hall and if you look at her final opinion that evidence made it into the opinion and is one of the reasons she cites in finding that this would have a detrimental effect on Pennsylvania.”
Ryan pointed out, “Janet Pollard out of the Franklin County Visitor’s Bureau, Mike Ross who does a Ross on the Radio Show every Friday at 8:40, Rob Kauffman and a lot of lawmakers, Patty Nitterhouse – there were a lot of folks that had their hands in this. How long has this been going on?”
Barkdoll said, “At least two if not three years. It’s interesting, Transource seems like they’ve just kind of disappeared. After Judge Barnes issued her original ruling, there was some thought would Transource try to continue to pursue this, look at other angles? And of course COVID came into play when this all happened. In the final trial in this case one of the real data points that I think undermined the Transource case was that power usage, power needs actually declined in that DC metro, northern Virginia area, which was the place Transource was claiming needed more power, needed more resources. In a weird coincidence, COVID may have actually worked very much against Transource’s own claims.”