Construction of a $1.2 billion high-power electricity corridor could allow private companies to invoke Federal eminent domain powers.
The corridor is planned for parts of Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Virginia. The 500-kilovolt transmission lines are anticipated to be 150 feet high and 70 feet wide, requiring a 200-foot wide swath of land to be cleared.
In my Maryland county, this amounts to 640 acres of land seized - the bulk of which cuts through working farmland and 200-year-old forests. According to the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), Pepco Holdings, Inc (PHI) has stated that they do not anticipate the project will bring jobs to local counties, nor do they anticipate utilizing local contractors to do the work.
The ESLC also says there is no evidence that current energy transmission is unreliable in this area, though PHI claims the line is critical to long-term electrical reliability.
At a recent town hall with Rep. Kratovil (D-MD), farmers expressed concerns related to permanent loss of productive land, reduced property values, interference with irrigation systems and spraying their fields. For example, most farmers in this area use crop-dusting airplanes to spray their crops, which typically use a spray boom just 10-12 feet above the crop canopy. Being forced to spray from an altitude higher than 150 feet would result in significant cost increases, as well as high levels of overspray into protected watersheds and neighboring properties.
In addition to concerns expressed by farmers, local businesses relying on eco-tourism are opposed to the lines, which they fear would permanently blight places of significance like Harriet Tubman's birthplace and the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Landowners, environmentalists and businesses that oppose the power line are urging representatives to consider alternatives, such as wind power or burying the lines.
If the project is rejected at the State level, PHI could invoke federal eminent domain powers, under the Energy Policy Act of 2005:
In the event that the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway is not approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission, PHI would be able use the power of eminent domain under Federal authority. Section 1221 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides authority for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review and override state siting decisions as well as other federal and state laws and policy and confer federal eminent domain to private companies for transmission line siting. The ability to override a decision by the Maryland Public Service Commission, as well as other state and local zoning ordinances, conflicts with policies concerning conservation, agriculture, transportation, and other land use decisions.
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