MAPP, PATH and Marylands Energy Future in Limbo
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by Alana Wase |
Despite Marylands commitment to clean, renewable energy, plans are being made to import additional coal-fired power into our state. Two transmission line proposals, the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) and the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), if built, would encourage existing coal- fired power plants to ramp up production and ship additional dirty coal power to population centers on the East Coast
Despite Maryland’s commitment to clean, renewable energy, plans are being made to import additional coal-fired power into our state. Two transmission line proposals, the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) and the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), if built, would encourage existing coal- fired power plants to ramp up production and ship additional dirty coal power to population centers on the East Coast.
As many of you know from the previous issue of Chesapeake, the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter strongly opposes these proposals. The lines, which would cost consumers $3.1 billion to construct, would further commit us to an antiquated energy system that exacerbates global warming and demands mountain top removal mining, while delaying renewable energy deployment. Expert testimony before the West Virginia Public Service Commission reported from PATH alone, “CO2 emissions will increase (net) by 3.75 to 7.79 million tons per year, SO2 emissions will increase by 67,000 to 88,000 short tons per year, and NOx emissions will rise by 12,000 to 20,000 short tons per year.”1 This is a conservative estimate, the expert witness goes on to state repeatedly.
While the declaration “emissions will increase” should be enough to raise a red flag, these proposals are under serious consideration. To put 7.79 tons of carbon emissions into perspective, that is equivalent to a quarter of the entire state of Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in 2005.2 Clearly, MAPP and PATH are not solutions to current energy problems, but rather, the antithesis.
Over the last few months the debate on whether to build or not build the lines has been heating up. With the powerful utilities and the coal industry advocating for the transmission lines, it is essential that we remain engaged to ensure that the arguments against the lines are vigorously expressed and heard. Below is an update on each proposal as well as an update on the Maryland Chapter’s activities to oppose the lines and promote a better alternative.
In a significant win for our side, on September 9, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) ruled to dismiss the application for PATH, as, by Maryland law, the application must be filed by an electric company, and PATH does not qualify. This ruling has had a domino effect on the project. As PATH is proposed to go through multiple states—Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia—the proposal is being reviewed by each public service commission. Since the Maryland ruling we have seen the staffs of Virginia and West Virginia’s PSCs submit motions to dismiss the PATH applications. The West Virginia motion stated “through [PATH’s] failure to assertively seek regulatory approval from the Maryland PSC, PATH has placed [the WV] Commission in a difficult analytical position and has required it to analyze the need to deliver electricity to a currently hypothetical terminus. Therefore, this certificate application should be dismissed…until such time as a proper application is filed in Maryland...”3
We are pleased with these PSC rulings in that they may delay the approval process anywhere for four months to indefinitely, depending on PATH’s next moves.
Similar to PATH, MAPP’s fate is also unknown. The MD PSC is waiting for more complete responses from PEPCO Holdings, Inc. (PHI) regarding the project. Originally, PHI proposed that MAPP would begin in Virginia, pass through Maryland under the Chesapeake Bay, onto the Eastern Shore, to then travel to Delaware and end in New Jersey. This summer however, PHI announced their decision not to construct the northernmost leg of the line to connect Delaware to New Jersey. Given the change in plans, the MD PSC is scrutinizing the proposal closely. Additionally, on October 15, Dorchester County filed a motion to dismiss MAPP’s application on the basis that the application is incomplete. At the time of writing, the MD PSC has not yet ruled on this motion.
The Sierra Club Role: Raising Awareness and Advocating for an Alternative
Over the last couple months the Maryland Chapter has been busy drumming up opposition to MAPP and PATH. We have been collecting petition signatures, holding public workshops on the issue, and keeping our members informed. A public rally, Down with King Coal! Clean Energy Revolution!, opposing MAPP and PATH, is planned for December 1 and should earn media coverage.
At the same time, we have attended meetings with the Office of the People’s Counsel, the Maryland Energy Administration, the Maryland Public Service Commission, editorial boards, and more.
We have also been meeting with fellow environmental organizations in the state to work together in opposing MAPP and PATH. In mid-October, we co-signed a letter to Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) addressing our concerns with the proposals and requesting MDE’s position on MAPP and PATH. We are awaiting a response. On October 28, the Maryland Chapter wrote a letter to the governor and circulated it to other environmental organizations inviting them to join us in asking Governor O’Malley to take a close look at the negative environmental impacts of MAPP and PATH. The National Wildlife Federation, Environment Maryland, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network joined us in signing the letter. We are awaiting the governor’s response.
While much is being done to oppose MAPP and PATH, we know that our work does not stop after the fate of MAPP and PATH is determined. In addition to direct opposition to the two lines, Sierra Club is working for smart energy solutions. We are encouraging the state to adopt a new comprehensive energy planning process so Maryland is more proactive in selecting clean, safe energy options, rather than reacting to proposals from the incumbent utilities. We are also discussing plans to host forums to educate our members and the state’s decision makers about better alternatives, such as responsibly sited off-shore wind turbines and other renewable technologies. We continue our Cool Cities and Cool Counties campaigns across the state, raising awareness of energy issues and encouraging energy efficiency and implementation of renewable energy among local elected officials and community members.
Evidence of the rate of global warming is accumulating faster than even climate scientists predicted. Maryland, with over 7,000 miles of coastline, is especially vulnerable to its impact. While MAPP and PATH remain in limbo, we are doing our best to defeat the lines and advocate for more sustainable energy solutions. The irreversible impact MAPP and PATH would have if built is unacceptable and irresponsible. While we cannot undo the mistakes of our energy past, we can define our energy future. This is a critical moment and we need everyone’s help, including yours! n
1 James, Christopher A. “Direct Testimony of Christopher A. James on Behalf of the Sierra Club.” Virgina Public Service Commission Docket No. PUE-2009-00043. 14 October 2009.
2 Maryland Commission on Climate Change. Climate Action Plan. August 2008 www.mde.state.md.us/assets/document/Air/ClimateChange/AppendixC_Inventory.pdf>
3 “Staff’s Motion to Dismiss the Filing as Insufficient or in the Alternative, Require PATH to Request a Tolling and Implement Further Case Processing Procedures.” West Virginia Public Service Commission Docket No. 09-0770-E-CN. 28 October 2009.
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