Power Line Battles on the Rise in U.S.
There are reports in the media almost every day about communities in the U.S. fighting electricity transmission companies’ plans to build new overhead high voltage power lines. As communities become more aware of the many negative impacts of overhead power lines on property values, the environment, health, safety, aesthetics and economic development, they are challenging transmission companies, electricity transmission regulators and their political representatives to consider more innovative technologies, like undergrounding, that eliminate or minimize these negative impacts. Following are brief summaries for just a few of the transmission line battles in the U.S.
Ameren proposes to build the overhead 100-mile-long 345kV Mark Twain Transmission Project in Missouri from the Illinois border to the Iowa border. The plan also includes a new substation near Kirksville. Residents along the entire length of the proposed line are opposing it over concerns about negative impacts on human and animal health, agriculture and property values. Some parents are particularly concerned about health effects on their children. Residents are also concerned about the taking of land by eminent domain (expropriation). Commercial bee farms worry about the impacts of overhead transmission line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on their bees’ ability to travel between hives and food sources. An Amish community is worried about Ameren’s plans to run the new power line right through the centre of their community where their school and cemetery are located. Adair County Commissioners have drafted a resolution opposing the line, citing serious health hazards to humans and animals that live near the lines. They also say Adair County citizens will not benefit from the new line. Kirksville City Council has signed a letter opposing the project, expressing concerns about Ameren’s use of eminent domain to override private property rights. Similar resolutions and letters are expected from other municipal governments. Five families, who are members of Neighbors United Against Ameren’s Power Line, are intervening in a lawsuit, claiming that Ameren is trying to use eminent domain authority without involving property owners.
Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston is proposing to build a 750-mile-long 765kV overhead high voltage direct current (HVDC) line originating near Dodge City, Kansas and delivering power to Missouri, Illinois and surrounding states. Some 530 property owners would be directly and negatively affected in Missouri alone. The staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission have joined the opposition to the line, saying, based on their assessment, the power line would not be in the public interest for Missourians. The line could end up adding to the cost of power in Missouri. One of the main concerns of homeowners and landowners is the use of eminent domain to force the lines onto their properties, and they are against the misuse of power, influence and money to override their private property rights. They’re concerned about the massive transmission line changing their agricultural lifestyle. They have approached their political representatives to help protect their property rights and overall quality of life.
Residents in Arkansas, including outgoing Republican State Representative John Hutchison, have concerns about another one of Clean Energy Partners’ proposed HVDC lines known as the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project which would run from the Oklahoma Panhandle and supply power to mid-south and south-eastern states. The $2 billion 700-mile-long overhead line would require a 200-foot-wide right-of-way and would have towers up to 200 feet tall. Some of the concerns raised by residents include: use of federal eminent domain to take private land, clear-cutting trees for the wide right-of-way, erosion and compromised water quality, killing of birds including important game species, other environmental impacts, negative visual impacts, property devaluation, archaeological impacts, and harm to humans. Some residents have proposed the line be buried in existing transportation and utility corridors because underground lines have significant environmental benefits; reduce tree clear-cutting; reduce visual impacts; are safer because they’re not affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, and other high wind or ice storms; do not kill millions of birds annually through collision; do not lower property values; do not negatively affect tourism; and the buried cable rights-of-way can be used safely for hiking trails and bike pathways.
Opposition continues against American Transmission Co.’s and Xcel Energy’s proposed overhead 345kV Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project from north of La Crosse to northern Dane County, Wisconsin. In addition to past concerns raised by Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) and Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) about negative impacts of the proposed line on the economy, environment, property values and livestock, the two organizations have recently said the environmental impact statement filed with Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission fails to analyze who profits from the line and the economic and environmental costs. They also question the line’s impact on tourism because overhead transmission lines and towers are ugly.
American Transmission Company and ITC Midwest LLC are proposing the 125-mile-long overhead 345kV Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project from Dane County, Wisconsin to Dubuque County, Iowa. Southwest Wisconsin residents are worried about: loss of property values, negative impacts on scenic view, limits on recreational use, ecological changes, adverse effects on local and state tourism, and threats to the health of those who live in close proximity to the overhead line EMFs. They refer to medical studies that show health risks for childhood leukemia and neurological diseases. Residents also indicate the line is simply not needed.
For the past two years, New York residents and community coalitions have been fighting Governor Cuomo’s plans to significantly expand the state’s electricity transmission infrastructure. Plans call for 153 miles of new overhead high voltage lines through the historic and environmentally-rich Hudson River Valley. More than 80 municipalities in 18 counties would be negatively affected, including 24 municipalities in the Hudson Valley. Communities have articulated the following concerns and positions: lines would negatively impact property values; additional building projects would be halted; transmission lines should be buried; taller towers would negatively affect the peaceful countryside viewscape; opposed to taking of land by eminent domain; new required transmission capacity should be built within existing corridors; review need for new power lines based on current electricity supply and demand data; support locally-generated renewable power, other types of distributed generation and conservation to reduce need for new transmission capacity; known health risks of overhead high voltage lines; loss of local tourism; and negative effects on agriculture. Based on extensive research, Dr. Gidon Eshel of Bard College has recently concluded there is no need for these new lines between now and 2040.
Houston-based CenterPoint Energy is proposing the overhead 130-mile-long 345kV Brazos Valley Connection transmission line that would run from Harris County to Grimes County, Texas. Residents that would be directly and negatively impacted by the line are worried about decreased property values, negative visual and other aesthetic impacts, land use impacts, wildlife habitat loss and negative impacts on migratory birds. For example, the new line would negatively affect birds in the Katy Prairie Conservancy, a 20,000-acre protected area. The Conservancy lies along the Central Flyway, hosts over 300 species of migratory bird species, and has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area. Residents also suggest the need for the new line has been grossly overestimated.
The Ontario City Council recently voted unanimously to support the fight to underground part of the 250-mile-long $2.1 billion 500kV Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project which would run above-ground from Kern County to Los Angeles County, California. Southern California communities have been fighting Southern California Edison (SCE) for up to 7 years to get parts of this massive transmission line buried. Ontario residents are concerned about adverse health effects, towers or lines falling over, devalued properties, noise, and limits to economic development if the line is built above ground. Hope For The Hills and the City of Chino Hills were successful in July 2013, following a 6-year battle, in getting SCE to bury 3.5 miles of the same line through Chino Hills, and Ontario wants equal treatment.
Concerns by U.S. residents about construction of new high voltage transmission lines could be eliminated or significantly minimized if these lines were buried like all of our other utilities.
This blog is based, in part, on information from: ABC 3, Missourian, KTVO (1), KTVO (2), KTVO (3), KTVO (4), Joplin Independent, News Press, Waunakee Tribune, The Cap Times, KUAR, Courier News, WNYT, New York Times, Register-Star, Houston Chronicle, and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Other blog posts and “Latest News” articles at this website provide many more examples of transmission line battles in the U.S.