Update September 16, 2011: MDE Wetland Permit Issues, EIS On-Hold & PSC Suspends One Year
MDE PHASE I NONTIDAL WETLAND PERMIT
Last Friday the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) sent a letter to Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) stating that approval
was granted to impact 118 acres of forested nontidal wetlands. Of course the impacts would result from building the portion of MAPP from Possum
Point, on the Potomac River shore in Charles County, to Chalk Point on the Prince George’s side of the Patuxent River. The letter is posted on the
MAPP Concerned Organizations webpage: http://ceds.org/mapp.html. The approval letter did contain three conditions, the most significant of which
may be final approval of Forest Harvest Plans by Charles County. It is still possible that Charles County aquatic resource advocates could succeed in
convincing County officials to reduce impacts to Mattawoman Creek and other highly valued waters through the Forest Harvest Plan.
DOE-PHASE II EIS
The applicant had requested a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee to construct the portion of MAPP from Calvert County
to Delaware. This request triggered the need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The draft EIS was due out by December.
But because of decreased funding, DOE is now reviewing all projects, including MAPP, to assess which they can still cover. Because of
this the MAPP EIS is on temporary hold. DOE expects to make a final decision shortly.
PSC SUSPENDS MAPP REVIEW FOR ONE-YEAR
Last week the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) granted a request by Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI) to suspend the review of
MAPP for one year. Of course the suspension was prompted by the recent PJM decision to postpone the MAPP in-service date to 2019-2021.
There is another effort underway to convince PSC to close the case completely rather then keeping numerous citizens, government officials, and
many others in this limbo of uncertainty.
SHOCKER: POWER DEMAND FROM US HOMES IS FALLING
“American homes are more cluttered than ever with devices, and they all need power: Cellphones and iPads that have to be charged, DVRs
that run all hours, TVs that light up in high definition.But something shocking is happening to demand for electricity in the Age of the Gadget:
It's leveling off.”
To read the rest of this article go to…http://www.northjersey.com/news/national/Shocker_Power_demand_from_US_homes_is_falling.html
Update February 28, 2011: PATH On Hold; is MAPP Next?
On Monday, the Potomac Edison Company brought the PATH transmission line to an end in Maryland, as well as Virginia and West Virginia. The reason: Declining growth in electricity demand and other factors have eliminated the need for this three-state, 275-mile project. Will MAPP - the other major Maryland transmisson line project - also be put on hold? We won't know until next week (March 10th), when an updated analysis of project need is due out. What we do know is that MAPP is not needed to tap all that wind power potential off the Maryland coast. The existing Delmarva transmission grid is more than adequate to deliver offshore wind power to markets elsewhere in the USA. Nor is MAPP needed to maintain reliable, affordable electric service on the Delmarva or elsewhere in Maryland. There are other options which will acheive this goal just as effectively with far less environmental impact to the environment and electricity cost. The three greatest environmental impacts of MAPP are to increase air pollution from coal-fired power plants, cause wetland impacts far in excess of any project approved in Maryland since the 1980s, and impact as much as 8500 acres of the Chesapeake Bay and Choptank River. Further detail on these and many other impacts can be found on the CEDS Transmission webpage.
Why do we care about transmission lines?
Although the current issues relating to transmission lines in Maryland and coal fired power are not the most riveting topics, they happen to be a huge threat to the fight against of global warming. The purpose of this website is to provide all the explanations and connections that relate the Maryland environmental movement and the two newly proposed transmission lines in our state.
Stopping more coal fired power from being imported into Maryland is a top priority of the Sierra Club because no good will come of it. Increased CO2 emissions and pollution. Increased mountaintop removal. Increased dependence on fossil fuels. Not exactly the direction we want to go in.
Ultimately, we have a choice, continue down business as usual or step up to the challenge of making Maryland’s energy sources renewable. So please, read on and step up!
Introduction to Transmission Lines in General
Transmission lines are a complex system of structures and wires designed to carry between 69 and 765 kV of electricity for long distances. Transmission lines deliver alternating electric currents to a transformer, which converts the electric power to direct currents that are delivered to our homes by distribution lines.
Our electric power distribution system can be divided into two parts: transmission lines (large steel towers) and distribution lines (wooden poles or underground wires). The transmission and distribution systems can be compared to a system of roads. Transmission lines would be the multi-lane highways that transport large amounts of electric power across long distances, while distribution lines would be the local roads and streets. Transformers serve as exit ramps, stepping down voltage so distribution lines can deliver electricity to homes and businesses.
Figure 1. Generating stations, also known as power plants convert fossil fuels, renewable energy, or nuclear energy into electricity. Electric energy is typically transported long distances through transmission lines at extremely high voltages. Once the transmission lines reach their destination the electric power is delivered to a transformer that converts the voltage from an alternating to direct current. Distribution lines then deliver the lower voltage electricity to your home or business.
Sources: http://www.pathtransmission.com/faqs/default.asp#7 and http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/fact_sheets/transmission.html
Introduction to MAPP
MAPP (Mid Atlantic Power Pathway) is proposed as a 150 mile, high voltage transmission line that would start at Dominion’s coal powered Possum Point substation in Virginia, cross the Potomac River into the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant, go across the Chesapeake Bay and finally up through Maryland's Eastern Shore to Delaware - affecting Charles, Prince George’s, Calvert, Dorchester, and Wicomico Counties.
MAPP proponents claim that a majority of the line would on be built existing rights of way and that it would reduce the environmental impact of the line’s existence. This is false. The existing rights of way would need to be significantly expanded to accommodate MAPP if it was approved. MAPP is a large, extremely high voltage infrastructure that would require cutting down an additional 200 foot wide swath of land wherever the line would cross.
In addition, the proposed MAPP corridor bisects an area of the Eastern Shore known for its pristine environmental resources, including:
· the highest ratio of “preserved to developed” lands in the state
· forests with the highest carbon sequestration rates
· the highest concentration of threatened-endangered species habitat on the Eastern Shore
· aquatic habitats critical to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge ecosystem
· some of the most productive agricultural soils
· the largest tracts of commercial forestlands in the state.
Some of our State’s greatest cultural resources as well would be impacted, including:
· the Captain John Smith Water Trail
· the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
· the proposed site for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway (nominated for All-American Road/National Scenic Byways designation)
Imagine all of this being jeopardized aesthetically and environmentally with large transmission towers.
For more information on MAPP visit their website at, http://www.powerpathway.com/
Figure 2. MAPP's proposed route originally continued from Indian Head, DE to Salem, NJ. However, PJM determined that this section of the line was no longer needed and was suspended in May 2009, reducing the length of MAPP from 230 miles to 150 miles.
Introduction to PATH
PATH is proposed as a 275 mile, 765 kV transmission line that would start from western West Virginia into in a newly proposed substation in Kemptown, MD. Its western end is in Amos, WV, site of one of the largest coal fired power plants and also one of the worst emitters of sulfur dioxide, mercury and global warming pollution in the nation.
Towers for a 765 kV line are usually a lattice steel structure between 140 and 160 feet tall. New or additional rights of way would need to be constructed for the entire length of the proposed line, as well as additional substations.
For more information of PATH visit their website at, http://www.pathtransmission.com/
Figure 3. PATH’s proposed route would begin in Amos, WV and end at a newly proposed substation in Kemptown, MD after crossing through VA.
Important Dates in Understanding the Debate on Proposed Transmission Lines: MAPP and PATH
Prior to 2005, every state had full control over whether to deny, approve, or place conditions on permits for transmission line projects within its borders.
August 8, 2005
President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Policy Act. §1221 of the act empowered the Department of Energy to designate regions as National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. States would have only limited control over requests to construct transmission lines in these corridors. If a state denied a transmission line permit, placed certain conditions on a permit, or did not act on a permit within one year for any reason, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) could override the state’s authority and issue a transmission lines permit. In addition, the Act provides power of eminent domain to acquire property in the transmission line right of way, and guarantees a high rate of return for investors in approved transmission line projects.
April 20, 2007
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first mandatory, market-based program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI’s goal for its ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic state signatories is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from the power sector 10% by 2018. But one RGGI problem is “leakage,” where electricity generation shifts from power plants within a RGGI state to power plants in states, such as West Virginia, without caps or reduction efforts against carbon dioxide emissions.
June 22, 2007
PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization coordinating the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states (including Maryland) east of the Mississippi River, and in the District of Colombia. It approved the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) as an addition to the mid-Atlantic transmission grid. The PATH was proposed as a 275 mile, 765 kV project that would start from western West Virginia at the Amos coal fired power plant and connect to the existing grid at a newly proposed substation in Kemptown, MD.
October 2, 2007
The Department of Energy designated the Mid-Atlantic area, including virtually all of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, and significant parts of other nearby states as a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor.
October 17, 2007
PJM Interconnection, the grid operator, approved the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) plan. MAPP was proposed as a 230 mile, high-voltage project that would start at Dominion Virginia Power's coal powered Possum Point substation, cross the Potomac River to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant, go under Chesapeake Bay, cross through Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and, finally, go up the Delmarva Peninsula and across the Delaware River to New Jersey.
November 5, 2007
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler filed a petition, in the name of Governor O’Malley, requesting that the Department of Energy grant a rehearing of its order designating the Mid-Atlantic region as a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. O’Malley expressed concern about the large size of the corridor, as well as the fact that there was no consideration of non-transmission solutions for the grid’s congestion (overload) problems.
February 28, 2008
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted four rate incentives for the PATH project, including aguaranteed 14.3% rate of return on its investment and a guaranteed reimbursement for all of the project’s start-up costs.
April 24, 2008
Governor O’Malley signed into law “EmPOWER Maryland,” requiring Maryland to reduce energy consumption by 15% by 2015, thus reducing Maryland’s forecasted electricity demand.
February 18, 2009
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Piedmont Environmental Council v. FERC, ruled in favor of the Piedmont Environmental Council. Under this decision, states regained the right to reject transmission line projects within one year, without fear that the federal government would overrule their rejections.
February 25, 2009
Pepco Holdings Inc. (an energy holding company engaged in operating utilities and selling electricity and other “energy products” to residential and commercial customers) filed a motion with the Maryland Public Service Commission, case #9179, alleging a need to construct the MAPP project, and asking the commission to rule on this and other matters.
March 19, 2009
President Barack Obama appointed a new chairman of FERC: Jon Wellinghoff, a supporter of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The previous chairman, Joseph T. Kelliher, appointed by Bush, had stepped down earlier in March.
The Delaware section of MAPP planned to run from Indian Head, DE to Salem, NJ, is suspended by PJM as it is determined to no longer be of need.
MAy 19, 2009
Allegheny Energy, Inc. and American Electric Power, Inc. filed a plan for the huge PATH transmission project with the Maryland Public Service Commission, case #9198.
June 7, 2009
Governor O’Malley signed the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (GGERA) into law. GGERA requires the state to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions 25% from 2006 levels by 2020 and to adopt a final plan to achieve this goal by 2012.
According to a new FERC study, Maryland could, by 2019, reduce its energy consumption at peak demand by one-third; further, if electricity were better managed within Maryland, the peak demand (on the hottest days) could reach below 2009 levels by 2019. http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/06-09-demand-response.pdf
July 10, 2009
Sierra Club intervened in the May 19, 2009 Allegheny Energy, Inc. and American Electric Power, Inc. case before the Maryland Public Service Commission, #9198, petitioning to stop the PATH plan for transmission line construction. Sierra Club alleged that this PATH plan would increase Maryland’s reliance on coal-fired power and would impede Maryland’s renewable energy development.
July 15, 2009
The Maryland Public Service Commission Hearing Examiner approved a motion by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to suspend the review of the MAPP plan until the applicants explain why the Delaware portion (30 percent of the 230-mile project) was put on hold by PJM.
Are MAPP and PATH needed?
Justification of these transmission lines
Pepco Holdings Inc., the company proposing MAPP, said that the $1.2 billion project is necessary because of the projected growth in energy demand throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. However, according to the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE), Maryland’s largest utility company, this claim is incorrect. The company’s Ten Year Plan for the Maryland Public Service Commission reports no increase in peak demand, and it in fact shows a slight decrease over the next 10 years. Therefore, justifying MAPP is difficult since the underlying purpose of the project is not valid.
PATH is a joint venture between Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power with a guaranteed 14.3 percent rate of return from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, even though the construction of the multi-billion dollar line would be paid for by all of PJM's customers. Therefore, MAPP and PATH would not only be financed by the regions these transmission lines would affect, but also by the 50 million customers that reside in PJM’s territory (Figure 4). The incentive for the construction of PATH is not only the high rate of returns and low investment risks, but also the opportunity for these companies to access higher priced markets on the East Coast in order to generate enormous profits (Figure 5).Figure 4.PJM's Current Territory, please notice the large portion within the territory that are major coal producing states, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Figure 5. PJM and others want to move more of the cheap coal fired generation (in blue) to eastern markets (in red). Current FERC rules require "economic dispatch" which maximizes the use of coal fired generation everyday.
National Assessment of Demand Response Potential, June 2009
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conduct a National Assessment of Demand Response Potential (the Assessment) for an overall evaluation of our nation’s demand response potential in 5 and 10 year time spans.
Demand response potential refers to the changes that could be made by electric power consumers in response to possible price changes or incentives to conserve for the purpose of using less electricity.
The Assessment used four scenarios to estimate our energy usage in the future; Business as Usual (BAU), Estimated Business as Usual (EBAU), Achievable Participation and Full Participation. Each with varying levels of demand response potential, with BAU being little to no conservation, to Full Participation being much conservation.
Figure ES-1 shows the differences in electricity usage depending on the four levels of conservation. If there were no demand response programs, our nation’s electricity usage would grow at an annual average growth rate of 1.7 percent – reaching 810 gigawatts (GW) in 2009 and approximately 950 GW by 2019. However, under full participation in demand response programs, the Assessment estimated that we could use the same amount of electricity in 2019 as we do in 2009!
Demand response potentials were estimated for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Figure 17 illustrates the potential of the ten states with the highest peak reduction potential in 2019.
Figure 6 illustrates that Maryland's peak demand could be lower in 2019 than it is today in 2009.
Negative Impacts of MAPP and PATH
Increase Dependence on Coal Fired Power and Decrease Maryland's Renewable Energy Potential
Maryland's energy sources are typically non-renewable and imported from surrounding states (MD is the fourth largest electric energy importer in the United States, only surpassed by New Jersey, Virginia, and California). Maryland does produce a small amount of coal in the West, but most of the state’s coal-fired power plants burn coal shipped from West Virginia. Coal fired power generally supplies more than one-half of the electricity generated in Maryland; nuclear power from Calvert Cliffs accounts for one-fourth, and petroleum- and natural gas-fired plants supply much of the remainder for the state.
There are, however other options for energy generation in Maryland that are not imported and are renewable, specifically wind. There are regions with great potential for wind power within the state, including the Chesapeake Bay, off the Atlantic Coast, and within the Appalachian Mountains. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the coast of Maryland has class five and six winds, exceeding those of the Great Plains. Power generated from Maryland's wind could potentially provide between 50-100 percent of our state's total energy needs.
The price of offshore wind electricity is not only competitive with coal in the long run, but it is also price stable over the lifetime of the wind farm because it’s not dependent on volatile fuel prices. Offshore wind generated electricity can be delivered into the grid via transmission lines that are only tens of miles long instead of the hundreds of miles needed for moving coal-fired power, or thousands for moving Great Plains wind to east coast markets.
Maryland’s economy is generally non energy-intensive, and per capita energy consumption is relatively low at the moment. Therefore, at this juncture in time, Maryland should take the opportunity to implement demand response programs that would lower our overall energy use and our peak demand. During the time when conservation is enough to keep our electric grid reliable, we should invest in our state's long-term energy needs - wind. Wind is a locally produced, renewable, and reliable energy source that has the ability to be as cheap as coal. So when our peak demand for electricity does increase in the future, Maryland will be ready with wind generated energy.
However, if dirty energy projects, such as PATH and MAPP are approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission today, our state would be investing in yesterday's energy solutions for tomorrow's energy demands. These transmission lines would have repercussions far beyond importing coal: they would literally stop the renewable energy initiative in Maryland. The start up costs of wind generated energy far surpasses cheap dirty coal because the state would have to invest in a whole new infrastructure for this renewable resource, and because cheap coal energy would flood the market.
The low price of coal is extremely misleading. The price we pay to use coal does not necessarily show up in our monthly electricity bill, but it does show up in the overall health of the environment and in ourselves. Coal burning power plants are the leading source of mercury contamination and the pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, and climate change. Also, the process of cooling and scrubbing coal is water intensive and accounts for a significant amount of our nation's fresh water use, while severely damaging local aquatic ecosystems. Furthermore, coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel and a HUGE threat to global warming. Coal is already responsible for one-third of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy use - which is equivalent to all the country's cars, trucks, buses, trains, and boats CO2 emissions combined.
Also, there will be a point in the future when humans cannot remove anymore mountain tops, and can no longer cheaply remove coal from the Earth. Therefore, when coal supplies do dwindle in the future and the price of coal fired power inflates, Maryland customers would be stuck paying for an obsolete energy source, while scrambling to find a new energy solution. The answer to our future energy needs is available today, right now, and just waiting for us to take advantage. Wind is the way of the future and would allow our state to go beyond fossil fuels, pollution, and fluctuating prices.
Counterproductive to MD's current laws