Proposed PATH plan draws protesters

May 31, 2009

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- Organizers of a rally against a proposed electric power line Sunday afternoon predicted that more than 100 activists would turn out on busy U.S. 340 in Harpers Ferry to join the protest.

About 40 sign-carrying protesters showed up, fewer than half the number predicted, but no less enthusiastic in their anger against the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH).

"We were hoping for 100 people, but we're thrilled," said Keryn Newman, who with Patience Wait, her neighbor in the Leisure Hills subdivision near Shepherdstown, W.Va., organized the rally.

"It's all right with me," said Wait of the diminished number of protesters. "Everyone has their sign and some have two."


The women chose the section of U.S. 340 between the bridges that span the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers in Harpers Ferry because of the traffic tie-ups in that section of road on summer weekends.

They said earlier that they wanted their protest there on a Sunday afternoon to take "advantage of a traffic jam."

The organizers netted some reward as passing motorists and truckers tooted horns in support of their cause. Only one driver was heard yelling in opposition during a one-hour period Sunday afternoon.

The PATH project consists of a single, 765-kilovolt transmission line extending approximately 280 miles from the Amos Substation in Putnam County, W.Va., to the proposed Kemptown Substation southeast of New Market, Md. The project also includes a new Welton Spring Substation along the proposed route in northwest Hardy County, W.Va.

The line crosses through the southern section of Jefferson County. Its proposed route touches no other Tri-State- area counties.

Signs carried different messages, including "Say No to PATH," "Coal Power Is Not Green Energy" and "School Children Aren't Lab Rats."

The grandaddy of them all was an 18-foot banner held up by Tylee Ulmer, Camille Murphy and Terri Wells, all of Lovettsville, Va. It carried the slogan "Clean Coal-Dirty Lie," a reference to the possibility that the electricity carried through the power line would be generated in a coal-fired plant in West Virginia. 

Martha Ferris and Melanie Nichols of Preston County, W.Va., said their three-hour drive to Harpers Ferry Sunday "was worth it. "It (PATH) runs through Preston County," Nichols said.

"It goes through the property of a lot of our friends who won't benefit from it," Ferris said.

Several protestors came from Summit Point in southern Jefferson County, W.Va., through which the proposed power line would run.

Some worried that the line would be too close to Southern Jefferson Elementary School, others about the effect a line overhead or nearby would have on their property values.

Lynn Welsh and Brian Bircher of Summit Point said they're involved in the anti-PATH movement because of the line's proximity to the elementaryscool.

Ken Randolph of nearby Neersville, in Loudoun County, Va., said he wasn't as concerned that the proposed line would go through his backyard as he was that, "It isn't needed. The demand for electricity has been declining in recent years."


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