Virginia Considering $1.9B Transmission Project for Coal-Fired Power

Regulators in Virginia are considering the approval of a $1.9 billion high-voltage transmission line project that would bring coal-fired power to new markets in the Northeast.

The Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, said they will try to block construction of what they said are unnecessary power lines which would only help dirty coal plants in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ohio to ramp up production and dangerous emissions of air pollution, including carbon dioxide (CO2).

The power lines are proposed by two of the country’s biggest coal producers: American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and Allegheny Energy (NYSE: AYE).

"This is the worst possible investment we could make in energy development at this moment," said Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen. "We need new investments to help develop wind, solar, and other renewable energy resources–not a hugely expensive project that helps polluting old coal plants to make even more money."

The Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) calls for construction of high-voltage transmission lines starting in West Virginia near the John E. Amos coal-fired power plant, which is ranked as one of the dirtiest coal plants in the country for mercury, sulfur dioxide, and CO2 pollution, Earthjustic said. The lines would extend east for 275 miles, cutting through Virginia to end up in Maryland.

In papers filed last week with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Sierra Club and Earthjustice stressed that the proposed power lines are not needed to satisfy any unmet needs for electricity. Instead, the lines will only give coal a greater market share of the power mix in the Northeast.

According to a recent statement from the West Virginia Coal Association, the new lines will help "preserve the future" of aging coal plants, encourage development of new coal plants, and increase coal mining in Appalachia. All of this increased coal use would mean more dangerous air pollution and more environmental devastation from mountaintop removal mining, which already has transformed the landscape and historically rich natural system in West Virginia and Virginia, leveling and deforesting an area the size of Delaware and burying an estimated 1,200 miles of streams.

"This country can no longer afford to depend on dirty fossil fuel sources to generate energy," said Glen Besa, Director of the Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter. "Instead of building a giant extension cord that links the East Coast with distant coal plants, eastern states could be developing clean, renewable–and profitable–energy sources closer to home."


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