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TrAIL power line fight to continue

The fight over a $1.1 billion transmission line across northern West Virginia is far from over, despite a wholehearted endorsement of the line from the state Public Service Commission.

On Saturday, the state Sierra Club vowed to appeal the PSC decision to the state Supreme Court.

Sierra Club members said that an alternate route approved by the PSC is actually more environmentally damaging than Allegheny Energy's original proposal.

And they said the 500-kilovolt transmission line is little more than an extension cord to funnel more coal-fired power to Eastern population centers.

"The line results in a gross imbalance between electric needs and environmental degradation," said Sierra Club attorney William DePaulo.

On Friday night, the PSC barely beat a midnight deadline to act on the Allegheny Energy permit request or see the project approved by default.

The 120-mile project would cross eight counties from north of Morgantown to northern Virginia. Allegheny Energy has been promoting the line as the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line, or TrAIL for short.

PSC Commissioners Jon McKinney and Ed Staats concluded that the project will help upgrade the regional electrical network and could spur construction of more power plants fired by the state's coal industry.

Commission Chairman Michael Albert did not take part in the matter, because he did some work on the case for Allegheny Energy before leaving the Jackson Kelly law firm to join the PSC.

TrAIL still needs approval from utility regulators in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Hearings have been held and decisions are pending in both states.

The PSC rejected concerns about coal's greenhouse gas emissions.

Commissioners also threw out objections raised by area residents about lowered property values, ruined scenic views and the health effects of electromagnetic fields from the power line.

"The siting of electric transmission lines is invariably controversial," the PSC said in a 135-page ruling. "Regardless of the route selected, there will be opposition from the affected property owners."

(Read more about this story in the Sunday Gazette-Mail.)


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