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PATH backers request regulatory delay

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By J.R. Williams - jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

Backers of a high-voltage power line proposed to run through Frederick County announced plans Monday to request a delay of regulatory proceedings in three states that could push final decisions on the project into 2012.

Allegheny Energy Inc. and American Electric Power -- partners in the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline project, known as PATH -- filed papers with the West Virginia Public Service Commission on Monday asking for the delay.

In a joint statement issued Monday, the companies say similar requests will be filed "this week" with the Virginia State Corporation Commission and the Maryland Public Service Commission.

The companies said the delay is necessary to revise testimony to regulators to reflect data in a draft long-range planning document released Monday by regional grid operator PJM Interconnection.

The draft 2011 Load Forecast Report, which predicts peak electricity demand across the company's footprint for the next 15 years, "differs from prior PJM forecasts and could potentially have an impact on the PATH project's in-service date" of June 1, 2015, the statement says.

"However, the draft report alone does not change the projected in-service date for PATH or any other transmission exapnsion project," it says.

On Dec. 1, PJM's board of directors renewed its support of the in-service date. They also approved a $320 million-$370 million rebuild of an aging 500-kilovolt power line, known as the Mt. Storm-Doubs line, that already traverses Frederick County.

A schedule proposed by the companies in the West Virginia filing sets a March 31 deadline for the new PATH testimony to be filed; an evidentiary hearing from Oct. 3 to 18; and a Feb. 9, 2012, deadline for the Public Service Commission's decision.

A final decision by West Virginia regulators was originally scheduled for July 28, 2011.
Although a revised schedule has not yet been requested in Virginia, "similar requests will be filed this week to ensure a consistent review of the project across all jurisdictions," the joint statement says.

The West Virginia filing comes 10 days after Public Service Commission employees there called for either a dismissal of the PATH application or a postponement of the proceedings. The current application, they said, lacked information on "recent major developments in regards to transmission planning in the region," including the impact of the Mt. Storm-Doubs rebuild.

PATH is a $2.1 billion, 765-kilovolt power line projected to run from the Amos substation near St. Albans, W.Va., through Frederick, Clarke and Loudoun counties in Virginia to a proposed Kemptown substation in Frederick County, Md.

About 31 of 275 miles of line is proposed to cut through Frederick County, Va.

Project backers say the line is needed to address reliability concerns for the regional power grid, but residents and local leaders have registered strong opposition to the plans.
A Virginia State Corporation Commission public hearing on PATH is scheduled for Feb. 2 at John Handley High School.

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