This is my second post on the need for the Maryland Public Service Commission to reject transmission lines that would take coal burned in West Virginia, and transfer it into my state of Maryland as a source of power. You can find part 1 here. Today I have a column out in the Diamondback making the case against MAPP and PATH, and for offshore wind power. I also want to be sure to plug the rally against the power lines on December 1st at 1pm in Baltimore. You can find out additional information about the MAPP and PATH issue on the Maryland Sierra Club’s website.
MAPP and PATH: Time to draw the line
By Matt Dernoga
I have a minor suggestion for the utility companies. If you’re going to try to portray your attempts to build gigantic interstate transmission lines as a way to transfer renewable energy, don’t connect them to coal plants.
Coal power squared: That’s what Pepco Holdings Inc. is trying to sell us with the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, along with Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power pushing the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline. MAPP is 150 miles long and starts at a coal-powered plant in Virginia, which crosses into this state and ends in Delaware, racing across the Chesapeake Bay in the process. PATH is 275 miles long, starts at one of the nation’s largest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in West Virginia and arrives in Kemptown, Md.
The motivation for both projects is pretty simple. The local electricity markets for these coal-fired power plants pay 6.63 cents a kilowatt hour in West Virginia and 9.1 cents in Virginia. There’s a considerable profit to be made by selling this power in a state such as Maryland, where the average market price is 13.45 cents a kilowatt hour.
I think that’s fine — profit is always the motivator — but the question is, what do ordinary people and not just companies get out of the deal?
If you like people, the residents who live in the way of the combined 425 miles of massive transmission lines would face upheaval from eminent domain due to the “right of way” for an approved transmission line. The people who live by the coal plants get to breathe more rarefied air. If you like nature, the lines would also cut across forests, a wildlife refuge and the Chesapeake Bay. If you like money, you’re in luck if you work for one of the utilities. Ratepayers will cover the $1.8 billion cost of PATH and $1.4 billion cost of MAPP. Is a sense of absurdity unavoidable?
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about these lines is they would lower the incentive for Maryland to use our enviable offshore wind resources. The U.S. Energy Department said the state has “outstanding” wind for power generation offshore, with breezes steadily averaging 18 to 20 mph and about 160 feet above the waves. This is about the height at which wind turbines would spin.
Earlier this year, the Interior Department declared that U.S. offshore wind resources could lead America’s clean energy revolution. Over 1,000 gigawatts of wind potential exists off of the Atlantic coast alone. It would be tremendous if the state could lead the way and tap into this clean energy source. Plus, I’d like to write about something we’re building that’s a good idea for a change.
Fortunately, citizens in states that will be impacted by these transmission lines have been rising up in opposition and demanding their public service commissions make decisions on MAPP and PATH in the interest of the public. State activists are looking to stop the importation of dirty coal power into the state by holding a rally Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. at Preston Gardens Park in Baltimore. Join them and help convince state legislators to make the right decision: No to new coal.
Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.