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Power co. to reroute big power line in Pa.

PITTSBURGH -- Allegheny Energy Inc., bowing to intense community opposition in southwestern Pennsylvania, has agreed to reroute a proposed multistate high-power line and move its end point so that only one mile of it passes through the state.

The 500-kilovolt transmission line was to originate in Washington County, continue for 37 miles in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and then cross into West Virginia on its way to Loudoun County, Va.

The company has agreed to move the end point to the southern end of Greene County, about one mile from the West Virginia border, said Pam Snyder, the chairwoman of the Greene County Commissioners. In return, the county won't oppose the project, Snyder said Monday.

The talks between Allegheny Energy and the two Pennsylvania counties began in August after two administrative law judges for the state Public Utility Commission advised the agency to deny a request to build the line. That recommendation is not binding on state utility regulators, but it spurred the energy company to talk to locals who have been adamantly opposed to the $1.3 billion project.

"This is huge for Greene County,'' Snyder told The Associated Press. "When this process started our objective was to stop the 37 miles of the 500-kv line that would run through Greene and Washington counties and to protect the property owners who were being held hostage by a 30-year-old right of way.''

"Today we've done that,'' Snyder said. "They're not building that portion of the line.''

Allegheny Energy officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

The power line, a joint project between Allegheny Energy and Dominion Resources Inc., is designed to provide more power to heavily populated mid-Atlantic states.

Residents were opposed to the line both because of health concerns and because the rural area has no need for such a large amount of energy, Snyder said. Residents did not want the lines ruining their landscape, she added.

Allegheny Energy has negotiated deals during the past year with Pennsylvania property owners to allow for the one mile of line that will run through the area, Snyder said.

The rerouting proposal seems likely to remove a key obstacle to the power line. West Virginia's Public Service Commission has approved the proposal, while a Virginia State Corporation Commission hearing examiner has recommended that regulators there approve it.

The project is one of several proposals that pit electric companies and grid operators who say they need more large power lines to avoid electricity gridlock and blackouts against residents who think the looming towers would be eyesores.

The battles between them are occurring against the backdrop of a 2005 federal law that allows the U.S. government to override state regulators for power lines that are deemed to be critical to the nation's electric needs and that fall into specially designated corridors. One such corridor stretches from northern New York to Ohio and deep into West Virginia.

 


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