A transmission line that Allegheny Energy (NYSE: AYE) plans to build from the northern part of Virginia to the southwestern part of Pennsylvania has run into a potential roadblock in the last leg of its journey.
The Trans-Alleghany Interstate Line Co., an Alleghany subsidiary, announced Thursday night that administrative law judges in Pennsylvania have recommended against approving construction of the line in the state.
Administrative judges get involved if an application to build a transmission line in Pennsylvania is contested, according to a fact sheet from the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission. They preside over hearings about the application and write a recommended decision, which the commission – which has the final say – can then accept, reject or modify.
West Virginia's Public Service Commission has already approved the construction of the line through that state, and a hearing examiner in Virginia also has recommended that regulators authorize construction of the Virginia part of the line.
The Pennsylvania land in question consists of 37 miles of a 500-kilovolt transmission line, including one mile that Allegheny said is "critical to the integrity of the electric grid for the entire Mid-Atlantic region." The other 36-mile segment is intended to provide electrical service to consumers in southwestern Pennsylvania, according to the announcement.
A download of the recommended decision was not working Friday afternoon, but according to other press reports, judges Michael A. Nemec and Mark A. Hoyer questioned whether the line really is necessary and suggested that it could encourage more coal-fired power plants (see Northern Virginia Daily, The Winchester Star and Forbes).
"We are extremely disappointed in this administrative recommendation, which runs counter to the evidence presented," Allegheny CEO Paul J. Evanson said in a written statement. "We intend to vigorously pursue construction of this line with the Commission, particularly the one-mile section that is essential to regional reliability."
Jennifer Kocher, press secretary for the Public Utilities Commission, said the recommendation is just one step in the process.
"It's nearing the end of the process, but there's still an opportunity for any parties in the case to file exceptions to the recommended decision," she said. "All of that, including everything filed so far, makes up the entire body of evidence used by the commission to make its decision."
Allegheny has until Sept. 10 to respond to the judges' recommendation and until Sept. 22 to respond to other parties' concerns, and the company's manager of corporate communications, Doug Colafella, said the company plans to file these so-called exceptions.
"We obviously disagree with the recommendation," he said. "We're still very hopeful that the commission will see things another way. [The judges'] opinions really run counter to the results we've heard so far in Virginia and West Virginia. Others saw the merits of the line and gave us a recommended decision."
The board has not yet set a date to consider the line, Kocher said.
PMJ Interconnection, the organization responsible for transmission planning in the region, mandated the line in 2006 as part of a five-year plan to maintain the reliability of the transmission grid in the area, according to Trans-Allegheny. Allegheny's portion of the $1.3 billion project, expected to be completed in 2011, is estimated to cost approximately $850 million.