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. 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.
Increasingly, PATH opponents are citing new data that question the need for the project. Among other developments, PATH opponents cite the decision by Dominion Energy to rebuild its aging Mount Storm-Doubs power line, concerns about which were among the justifications for TrAIL and even more so for PATH.
In a regulatory filing Monday, AEP told the Public Service Commission the company still believes "that underlying system weakness eventually will require backbone transmission projects to ensure the future stability of the regional transmission grid."
Michael G. Morris, AEP's chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement, "While we are certainly disappointed by the suspension of PATH and the uncertainties created by the PJM planning process, we do support a thorough and detailed analysis of the need for the project.
"We remain convinced that the project will be needed and plan to move forward with it when PJM completes its review."
In arguing for PATH, developers have said PJM directed AEP and Allegheny Energy to build the power line. However, timetables for the project's completion have slipped repeatedly, from 2012 to the most recent date of 2015.
On Monday, PJM said subsequent analysis has shown the electrical-reliability problems PATH was to fix have moved several years into the future because of reduced growth in demand.
PJM also cited "evolving public policies" related to renewable energy and questions about future environmental regulations as "diminishing the robustness" of its current demand forecasts.
"PJM is basically admitting what we have said from the start -- that there are better and cheaper alternatives to building a $2 billion transmission line," said Abigail Dillen, an Earthjustice lawyer who has been fighting PATH. "Demand response and other clean-energy initiatives are working, so let's not rush to build a terribly expensive project that only entrenches dependence on dirty coal plants."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.