Pressure Builds in U.S. to Bury High Voltage Power Lines

A bill and resolution are currently being considered in the U.S. to seriously consider burying high voltage power lines (New Hampshire NewsKane County Chronicle).

RETA Northern Pass stop the towers imageThe Northern Pass 345kV overhead high voltage line has been one of the most controversial proposals in the U.S. in recent history, with those opposed citing well-documented negative health, safety, visual, property value, environmental and economic impacts. Within the next several weeks, the New Hampshire House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would direct the state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) to automatically consider transmission lines that aren’t buried to have an unreasonable impact. The bill stands a fair chance of getting passed, and if it does it could make it very difficult for the SEC to recommend approval of the Northern Pass project. (The SEC is a group of state bureaucrats that evaluates energy proposals.)

RETA Northern Pass live free or fry imageNew Hampshire State Senator Jeb Bradley strongly suspects that Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) and Northeast Utilities – which are proposing the Northern Pass line – have been grossly overestimating the costs to bury high voltage power lines. He bases this suspicion on PSNH’s recent error in estimating the cost of electricity in relation to a power plant scrubber. Bradley is quoted as saying, “The debate about the scrubber is making people like me test the hypothesis that it’s too expensive to bury the lines. I don’t buy it, I don’t buy their argument that it’s too expensive when they were off by almost a factor of seven-fold in terms of estimating the cost of electricity would be on the scrubber.”

(As a footnote, RETA has found that electricity transmission companies consistently grossly overestimate the costs of burying high voltage power lines because they make more money from building and maintaining overhead infrastructure. See this link for the facts on the costs of undergrounding.)

In Illinois, citizens are concerned about ComEd’s proposed 345kV transmission line, the Grand Prairie Gateway Project, and its impacts on property values, public health, forest reserves, county highways and agricultural operations. On January 15, the Kane County Development Committee recommended approval of the following resolution: “The installation of the power lines underground for certain sections of the project adjacent to residential and other sensitive uses may be technically feasible and could substantially mitigate the adverse impacts and effects of the project on residents and landowners as compared to the currently proposed aboveground tower design.”

Both the New Hampshire bill and the Kane County resolution clearly recognize the negative impacts of overhead high voltage power lines and the benefits of burying them.

RETA Northern Pass (Alliance Against) logoSome opponents of the Northern Pass line have shifted their focus to the aesthetics of the towers and lines (New Hampshire News). Transmission companies refuse to acknowledge the well-documented negative safety, health, environmental and property value impacts of overhead high voltage lines, but it’s more difficult for them to try to ignore the negative visual impacts of these lines. Almost everyone agrees that overhead lattice or monopole towers and the maze of conductors and wires are unsightly and a blight on any landscape they are built in. In fact, many RETA Northern Pass stop imagepeople – if not most – describe the overhead infrastructure as “ugly”. Perhaps the strongest argument in the future against overhead high voltage power lines may simply be that they are ugly. The other negative impacts are sometimes more challenging to describe, and some people may simply not want to believe the facts about health, the environment and property values. However, almost everyone who looks at a row of overhead lines and towers agrees they are ugly.

RETA Bury northern pass logo

~ by RETA on January 17, 2014.

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