Update on Power Line Battles in the United States
RETA has reported on many of the overhead transmission line battles in the United States in earlier “Latest News” articles and home page blogs, including this November 30, 2014 blog. Media reports continue almost on a daily basis regarding concerns by U.S. residents about the negative impacts of overhead power lines and towers. As well, many U.S. residents and organizations opposing overhead power lines point out the many benefits of burying them. Following are a few updates since our November 30 blog.
The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) announced on January 26 the final route for its controversial 345 kV 220-mile-long high voltage transmission line (a.k.a. R-Project). The $361.5 million project will cross 8 counties in the Nebraska Sandhills. Landowners, many represented by the grassroots organization Save the Sandhills, say the line will destroy the fragile ecosystem of grasses and dunes, adversely affect land values and hurt ecotourism and other businesses in the region. The line will also run through one of the last strongholds for the federally endangered American burying beetle. Many landowners feel the Sandhills should be protected and respected because it’s a state treasure and a national treasure. Save the Sandhills had presented the NPPD with a petition in December with nearly 1,600 signatures opposed to the overhead line, but the NPPD essentially ignored it by stating they do not consider petitions as input to their line routing process. (So much for listening to the folks who will be most directly and negatively impacted.) Although many landowners want to continue to fight against the final route, under state law the NPPD has the power to use eminent domain (expropriation) if a landowner refuses to grant an easement for the transmission line right-of-way.
Dominion Virginia Power plans to build a 230 kV transmission line through Prince William County, Virginia to service a new data centre (Amazon?) in Haymarket continue to be opposed by residents, local politicians and community organizations such as the Coalition to Protect Prince William County and Fight the Power Line. Elena Schlossberg with the Coalition recently said the only acceptable option is to place the lines underground along Interstate 66. Delegate Bob Marshall and Sen. Dick Black are introducing legislation that would require similar data centres or businesses in Virginia to be placed only in areas zoned for industrial use. Under their proposals, the owners of data centres outside industrial zones and more than 300 feet from an existing transmission line would have to place a new transmission line underground – and would have to pay for it. Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart said Dominion’s plans to send the power lines through residential areas amount to “no less than corporate vandalism”. Stewart took action saying, “As of Friday afternoon (Jan. 9), I signed into law the county’s acceptance of a deed of easement, a conservation easement, from the citizens of Somerset Crossing, thereby prohibiting for all time any power lines going through their neighborhood, or Greenhill, or Haymarket.” Meanwhile, Dominion Virginia Power says it’s reviewing several options for the power line, including a hybrid overhead and underground route.
James City Council, Save the James Alliance and the James River Association have recently asked the Virginia Supreme Court to overturn the 2013 approval by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) of Dominion Virginia Power’s new transmission line across the James River. The claimants state that when the SCC approved the project, it did not take steps to minimize the impacts of the 500 kV transmission line, such as requiring the line to be buried under the river or installed in a less sensitive place. The claimants and their experts indicate that the approved overhead line would negatively impact significant historic and environmental resources in the area where the line would cross the James River. They contend that the towers and lines, nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty, will mar views of the significant historic and environmental resources. In spite of petitions, many submissions by experts, and repeated requests over the past 3 years by local governments, many local and state organizations and many others to have the line buried under the river, Dominion insists on building the transmission line above ground with unsightly towers and conductors spanning the historic James River.
Opposition is growing to the Rock Island Clean Line proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, that would see an overhead 500-mile-long direct current high voltage transmission line built in Iowa and Illinois. The $2 billion line, starting in Granville, Iowa and ending in Morris, Illinois, would purportedly transport power from wind-energy-rich states in the midwest to the greater Chicago area in Illinois and further east. RETA had previously reported (Dec. 4, 2012 “Latest News”) on concerns about the line raised by Block RICL, primarily in Illinois; concerns include: the line’s impact on agricultural operations, soil compaction and crop damage incurred by tower and line maintenance activities, increased power costs to consumers to pay for the line, and the project would deter further growth and development of wind energy in Illinois. More recently, landowners in Iowa are expressing their outrage over the proposed line. The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance, representing more than 1,000 landowners across the 16-county region that would be impacted, is opposed to the use of eminent domain for the taking of their private land for the transmission line right-of-way and argue the line doesn’t serve a public good in the state because none of the electricity transported will be used in Iowa. They’re concerned about impacts of the line on agricultural operations, removal of good farm land, property devaluation, and documented health impacts. Some landowners are also upset about the inadequate compensation offered by Clean Line Energy Partners. Nearly 1,200 formal objections have been filed with the utilities board.
Opposition continues to grow against another one of Clean Energy Partners’ proposed projects, the Plains and Eastern Clean Line, a $2 billion 700-mile-long 600 kV line that would run from the Oklahoma panhandle through Arkansas and Tennessee and further. Since our November 30 update on this project, a number of jurisdictions have passed resolutions against construction of the line, including: Crawford, Franklin, Johnson and Pope counties and the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation. The Pope County resolution states the proposed power line would be an “enduring eyesore to Arkansas” that will affect the “natural beauty” and damage property values with “little positive effect”. The project proposal is in its 5th year and has also raised concerns about impacts on environmental and historical resources, health, bird movement, endangered species, erosion, and pesticide use in the line right-of-way. Many landowners are also opposed to the use of eminent domain to take their land if they refuse to negotiate easements. Those opposed to the line have also pointed out that Clean Line Partners has grossly misrepresented the employment and tax benefits of the project. Others are worried about the huge towers and lines being taken down by tornadoes which hit the area every year. Organizations including Block Plains and Eastern Clean Line, Block Plains and Eastern Clean Line: Oklahoma, Arkansas Citizens Against Clean Line Energy, and Block “Clean” Line Energy have encouraged landowners to write their elected representatives and to sign protest petitions.
Since our November 30 update, Neighbors United Against Ameren’s Power Line continue to educate landowners about the facts surrounding the proposed overhead 100-mile-long 345 kV Mark Twain Transmission Project in Missouri from the Illinois border to the Iowa border. The grassroots community organization has been travelling across the state providing information to landowners that Ameren won’t. The primary concern appears to be use of eminent domain to take their land for the transmission line. Landowners have also raised concerns over impacts of the line on human and animal health, property values, and agricultural operations. In October, a Missouri judge ruled against an Ameren subsidiary in a legal dispute over whether it needs state permission to build the transmission line. Ameren had wanted a court to declare that it doesn’t need a certificate from the Missouri Public Service Commission to build the line or to use eminent domain to acquire property in its path.
Further to our November 30 update, American Transmission Company’s and Xcel Energy’s proposed 180-mile-long, 345 kV, $580 million Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project in Wisconsin is receiving additional opposition. Landowners and businesses are worried about the line’s impacts on health (including cancer), property values, aesthetics, the environment, wildlife, economic development, aircraft, future electricity costs and overall quality of life. Regarding health concerns, many are worried about the impacts on nearby school children, and insist that the Public Service Commission should consider the cumulative health impacts of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) as well as pollutant-laden corona ion discharge from the high voltage lines. Debra Severson, one of many landowners opposed to the overhead line, said corona ionizing particles attract pollutants that more readily stay in the lungs and interrupt the body’s production of melatonin which is essential to maintain one’s immune system. She also said EMFs have been linked to interrupting migratory patterns of avian and mammalian species. Wisconsin’s largest Amish Community, through which the line would run, oppose the power line as well, and others said it was “an insult to those who choose to live without power”. Former Onalaska Mayor Mike Giese said the city would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development if the commission approves the southern route, which he called “a body blow to the city of Onalaska”. Some have criticized the Public Service Commissioners’ focus on the desires of transmission companies rather than on the public that is negatively impacted by overhead transmission lines. Others have suggested no-wire (including burying the line) and green initiatives as alternatives to the overhead line proposal. Visit the websites of Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) of Wisconsin for more information on this particular power line battle.
Almost all environmental, health, safety, property value, agriculture, economic development and aesthetic concerns expressed above can be eliminated if high voltage lines are buried like all of our other utilities. Check out the rest of this website for more information on the negative impacts of overhead lines and the benefits of burying them.
This blog is based, in part, on the following media sources: Lincoln Journal Star, Norfolk Daily News, WTOP (1), WTOP (2), Daily Press, Fox 28, Iowa Farmer Today, Courier News, Times Record (1), Times Record (2), Sequoyah County Times, KTVO (1), KTVO (2), WMTV, Waunakee Tribune, La Crosse Tribune (1), La Crosse Tribune (2), Washington Post and Jackson County Chronicle. Visit this RETA site for links to many of the community organizations currently opposing overhead transmission lines in the U.S.