Chesapeake: The Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Newsletter
 
Chapter Home
 
Chesapeake
Newsletter Home
Past Issues
 

The Potomac Valley Region of Maryland:
click for print view

by Matthew Lindberg-Work | 2009

Residents of Frederick County have cause for alarm. A proposed new project, PATH (Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline), would dominate many acres of land along a swath running through the southern part of the county. However, all of us, not just Frederick County residents, have a reason to be concerned about the larger impacts of the proposed PATH project.

Residents of Frederick County have cause for alarm.  A proposed new project, PATH (Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline), would dominate many acres of land along a swath running through the southern part of the county. 

However, all of us, not just Frederick County residents, have a reason to be concerned about the larger impacts of the proposed PATH project. 

The agricultural area of central Maryland around the city of Frederick  has taken on a new look over the past couple of decades.  Gradually, since the 1960s, the reach of the Washington, D.C. metropolis has extended into the rural areas around Frederick.  Despite this activity, many farms and forests remain.  The same farms and forests that make this area wonderful would be disrupted and damaged if the PATH is built.

Just outside of Maryland, many of West Virginia’s biggest mountain ranges have coal underneath them.  Most of the coal used by Maryland comes from this area of West Virginia but some of it is from farther west—around Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois—as well as special, low-sulfur coal from Wyoming and Montana.  A lot of this coal is dug up in various ways and sent eastward, both by railroads and by power lines, after it is burned in an electricity-generating facility.  The grand tragedy of mountaintop removal is well known to many of our readers, and is one of the many disadvantages of coal power (visit www.sierraclub.org/coal/).

 In early 2005, a group of power company officials and electric industry regulators came up with an action plan called “Project Mountaineer.”  This was a plan to organize the construction of new power lines across the Appalachian Mountains in order to bring cheap coal power from the coal-mining areas to the high-priced  electricity markets in the D.C.-Baltimore-New Jersey area.

The PATH corridor begins at Amos, West Virginia, next to one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the nation, and continues through an extensive swath of privately-owned hill country before entering the Monongahela National Forest. It passes close to some of the biggest mountains in West Virginia.  The PATH corridor then crosses the ridge-and-valley area of the Potomac River headwaters and continues into Virginia, crossing the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester.  

From just north of Winchester in Virginia, the PATH corridor continues through the historic Shenandoah Valley into West Virginia, crosses the Shenandoah River, climbs the Blue Ridge mountains, and passes over the Appalachian Trail right before entering Virginia.  The transmission line corridor would then continue either through or around the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, before crossing another mountain and passing Lovettsville, Virginia.  The PATH corridor then crosses the main stem of the Potomac River, leaving Virginia and entering Frederick County in Maryland, near Sugarloaf Mountain and Point of Rocks. 

Many families and communities are now facing the imminent threat of having at least some of their land taken away from them, to be industrialized and quite possibly permanently damaged. This would render it unfit for use as a habitat area for native plants and animals or as productive agricultural and forest land.  In Frederick County, for instance, the proposed PATH route passes over the regionally-famous Lilypons water gardens, which is a commercial production facility and showcase for flowers, plants, and fish.  If the PATH were built, the new warehouse that was just built at Lilypons would be destroyed.  There are many more stories like this, all along the entire route.  In every case, the real question is, “Does this project need to be built?”  (See page 6 for more information about whether more transmission lines are needed.)

The problems are,  first, the idea that the mountain areas west of the East Coast cities are the best place to build new power plants, and second, that these new power plants need to be coal-fired.  Both ideas are flawed.  The challenge for us as citizens is to find ways to keep the power companies from getting government approval for building new electric transmission lines in the wrong places, and for the wrong reasons. 

The power company designers, planners, and engineers need to look for solutions that do not involve new coal.  If PATH gets built, new coal mines will get opened, more coal will be burned, increasing global warming, and many acres of valuable scenic and agricultural land just west of the big cities will be taken over for power line construction.

For more information on the PATH project, please check out the Chapter website: www.Maryland.sierraclub.org.n

 

Matthew Lindberg-Work has been paying attention to the health and safety hazards of power lines for many years. He believes that we need an electric power system that is safer and less damaging to the environment.  This past year, Matthew has been keeping track of the PATH proposals on behalf of the Catoctin Group of the Maryland Chapter. Matthew just moved to Iowa, and can be reached by going to www.linkedin.com/in/matthew

> 2009 Table of Contents

   
   

Up to Top