HARRISBURG—Many concerned residents of Franklin and York counties are getting a special Christmas present this year.
Administrative law judges for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission have recommended denial of the application by Transource, the company hired by PJM Interconnection to construct the Independence Energy Connection — an electric system upgrade with approximately 40 miles of new 230-kV overhead transmission lines across Franklin and York counties.
Transource filed applications to build the estimated $366 million project with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the Maryland Public Service Commission in December 2017, claiming it would save customers in the Mid-Atlantic region $860 million in “congestion savings” and address reliability gaps impacting customers in Adams County, as well as Maryland.
The plan drew criticism from local residents, business owners and local government, with concerns raised over health, safety, aesthetics and property value.
However, in a 134-page decision signed by Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Barnes, Transource failed to show need for the project within the meaning of Commission regulations and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code.
According to the ruling, the congestion cost on the AP South Reactive Interface in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. metro-area that the market-efficiency project was designed to alleviate has substantially declined by over $400 million since 2014 without the project being built.
In addition, the judges ruled, any projected net benefit to the PJM region of $32.5 million over a period of 15 years, is outweighed by a projected increase in wholesale power prices in Pennsylvania by $400 million on a net basis.
The judges also said the project will have detrimental economic and environmental impacts on real estate values, farming practices, natural springs, trout fishing, an elementary school, the Tim Cook Memorial Cross Country Course, businesses, the Owl’s Club, local government and tourism in Franklin County.
Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), an outspoken critic of the Transource power line project applauded the judges’ recommendation.
“I have stood with the people of Franklin County in public opposition to this project, which has no benefit to the citizens of Pennsylvania or Franklin County,” Kauffman said. “This decision today is great news, in fact, it may be the best news I’ve heard in 2020.”
Last year, Franklin County Commissioners hired a law firm to actively participate in the legal proceedings.
“We could not be more pleased with Judge Barnes’ ruling which completely found in favor of the county and its residents and businesses and against Transource,” said Commissioner Dave Keller. “Our board unanimously decided to become actively involved in the lawsuit when we thoroughly investigated the record and found that the Transource power line, which would have forever changed the landscape in Franklin County, was not necessary nor was it needed in Franklin County specifically and Pennsylvania generally. This is exactly what Judge Barnes, after weighing the significant evidence, also found.”
Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski agreed. “The Transource project offered no benefits to those who live and work in Franklin County, it would have had a deleterious impact on farmland, historic resources, and was simply in complete contradiction to all that we commissioners have worked to protect and preserve for future generations as set forth in our County Comprehensive Plan,” Ziobrowski said.
To read the details of the recommendation and the three-year case, visit www.puc.pa.gov/docket/A-2017-2640195
Transource has 20 days to appeal the decision. If no exceptions are received, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge could become final without further Commission action.
“We took a hard stand and we now encourage Transource to drop this poorly justified project and not continue with further legal proceedings,” added Commissioner John Flannery. “We are committed to continue to oppose this project as the evidence is so clear that the electric line is simply not necessary and fails to meet the criteria required to construct it.”