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W.Va. PSC attorney moves to dismiss PATH line application

October 29, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A West Virginia Public Service Commission lawyer moved Wednesday to dismiss an application on a proposed multistate power line saying the project is incomplete and data supporting the venture is outdated.

John Auville noted the proposed 765-kilovolt Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH, would have a starting point, but no end point since Maryland officials dismissed an application to build the line through 20 miles of that state.

Allegheny Energy and partner American Electric Power have proposed building the $1.9 billion, 275-mile line from AEP's coal-fired John Amos plant in Putnam County, across parts of northern Virginia, to a substation near Kemptown, Md.

Maryland's Public Service Commission dismissed the application saying the companies created to develop the line were not an electric utility under Maryland law. The ruling gave Allegheny Energy subsidiary Potomac Edison until Oct. 9 to refile the application.

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Auville noted the utility has yet to refile the application.

He wrote that the application should be dismissed without prejudice until a proper application is filed in Maryland and PATH can present the Commission with a complete project.

In the alternative, Auville suggested that the state keep the application on file, but require the utilities to agree by Monday to suspended the regulatory decision clock. Without such an agreement, the state would be forced to make a decision by next June, or the line would automatically be approved.

Both AEP and Allegheny Energy officials have said the line is necessary to ensure reliability of the mid-Atlantic region's electrical distribution system past 2014. The line was authorized in 2007 by PJM Interconnection, which manages the grid system for a 13-state region.

Yet, Auville said power projections are expected to be updated by February. PJM has said the 2010 forecast would include economic recovery projections and information about power generation.

"Thus, it is unclear how the Commission can make a determination on this application without the updated information," he wrote.

The utilities should be required to submit the most current information because of the claimed need and the "unique characteristics of the economic environment," Auville said.

Neither West Virginia's PSC, nor the 250 individuals, groups and local government agencies who have intervened, should be required to spend any more money on the case until the Maryland issue is resolved and the updated information becomes available, Auville said.

Appalachian Power spokeswoman Jeri Matheney said Wednesday the utilities remain committed to PATH.

"It's the best solution to strengthen the transmission grid resolve our liability issues," she said.

West Virginia Sierra Club spokesman Jim Kotcon said Auville's move to dismiss the application "hit the nail on the head with a number of important issues."

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