CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Staff members with the West Virginia Public Service Commission are urging commissioners to throw out an application to build the $2 billion PATH power line, saying that less-expensive alternatives should be considered first.
PSC staff attorneys also argue that alternatives might be less environmentally damaging and that it's "ludicrous" for the commission to move forward with the PATH project without fully examining other options.
"The commission does not have all the information it needs to properly evaluate this project and reasonable alternatives," PSC staff lawyers said in a recent filing.
The commission has not acted on the staff motion, which was filed last week. Project developers American Electric Power and Allegheny Power have not responded, but dozens of PATH opponents have filed papers supporting the staff's motion.
AEP and Allegheny are seeking PSC approval for the West Virginia portions of the 765-kilovolt line -- called the Potomac Appalachian Highline, or PATH -- that would start at the John Amos power plant in Putnam County and run more than 275 miles into Maryland.
Power company officials say the project is needed to shore up the nation's ailing electrical grid and, as proposed, "minimizes the effect on the natural and human environment."
The project faces strong opposition, though, in part because PSC approval would allow the power company to use eminent domain to obtain rights-of-way from landowners. Other critics say PATH, like the already approved TrAIL power line, is little more than a huge extension cord to allow more pollution-causing coal-fired power to be sent from Appalachia and the Ohio Valley to East Coast population centers.