Meeting set on MAPP project


Delmarva Power is set to host an informational community meeting on their proposed Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) project on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Millsboro Civic Center in Millsboro, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The project consists of a 230-mile electric transmission line designed to help aid with the importation of power to the region.

Many people focus only on whether they have electricity coming out of the outlets at their homes and workplaces, or on the bills they get for that power, so they don’t always think about the local supply of power coming from a variety of power plants, such as the Indian River Generating Station in Millsboro, and how it reaches their homes.

Delmarva Power, which does not actually own any power plants, then delivers or transmits the power to where it needs to go. But present power usage suggests that, in the future, the existing main transmission line will not be able to keep up with the demand, prompting reliability issues.

The proposed new “power pathway” does not come without opposition though, as Carol Loveland, an attorney and energy consultant specializing in utility regulatory and land-use advocacy, says, “Just say no to transmission for coal and nuclear.”

Loveland maintains a Web log at http://legalelectric.org and has worked with Green Delaware, an advocacy group that has called for the shutdown of the coal-fired generating plant at Indian River because of its reputation as Delaware’s No. 1 polluter.

She said, “We are in a spot where really important decisions about energy need to be made. Do we stay with what we’ve got or take responsibility for our own generation and have something we can live with?” – referring to the amounts of carbon dioxide now put out into the atmosphere by coal generation.

Delmarva Power’s current main transmission line comes from the north, said Delmarva Power’s Mike Likovich. The proposed MAPP will be the first major transmission line built in 25 years, he noted, pointing out that if the transmission line form the north fails, then the entire Delmarva Peninsula would experience reliability issues with its power.

The proposed MAPP, which would come from the west, would allow for another avenue for the peninsula to get energy, adding more reliability, Likovich said. It would also help ensure sufficient power to meet a still-growing demand. Even with all the conservation efforts of late, energy usage has increased 2 percent each of the last 10 years and is expected to increase at a similar rate, if not more, in the next five to 10 years.

About 100 of the 230 miles of the MAPP would go through Delaware. There are 28 miles of line that would run from Maryland to Indian River and 32 miles from Indian River north to Kent County. The entire line starts in Northern Virginia, and then travels to Southern Maryland. It will go under the Chesapeake Bay and then into Dorchester County, Md., to Sussex County, Del., and then north through Kent and New Castle counties. It will then go under the Delaware River and connect to New Jersey.

For those concerned about the safety of lines that would be running along new poles, Likovich said that the new lines will stay relatively the same distance from any homes that may be adjacent to the existing right-of-way. The new poles will be made of steel and will be between 150 and 165 feet tall.

According to Delmarva Power, PJM Interconnection Association, which manages the wholesale bulk power grid in the Mid-Atlantic region has already “given its blessing” for the project from its start point in Northern Virginia to the Indian River connection in Millsboro. Likovich said they are still evaluating the connection that starts at Indian River and goes north.

For the project as a whole, Delmarva Power still need approvals from various state agencies in Delaware, as well as the Public Service Commission in Maryland, and they are working with environmental groups, too. They do not need the approval from the Public Service Commission in Delaware but will need various federal agency approvals, in addition to the state agencies.

Likovich said they anticipate a PJM decision on the Indian River-to-New Jersey segment sometime in the spring of this year. He noted that PJM does not consider any environmental issues when making such a decision, rather they make their decision based on the electrical load forecast and the pertinent timing for when that portion of the project is needed.

Again, much of the land use involved in the proposed project will be using existing rights of way, and people with concerns about land acquisition are being encouraged to attend the scheduled public meetings on the project, as this is the time to have those concerns addressed. Delmarva Power’s real estate department has already been in contact with Dorchester County landowners.

Sounding a further note of caution, Loveland also questioned whether the state’s power of eminent domain might be used in the land acquisition and, if the transmission line is a market proposition, she questioned whether that would allow companies like Delmarva Power to sell energy wherever they want, ultimately raising prices rather than lowering them or keeping them stable, as is a proposed benefit of the new high-voltage line.

“Eminent domain is required to be used for a public purpose, and if it is for market reasons, for profit for corporations that aren’t regulated, where would they get the power to take it?” she asked. The Delaware state senate delayed a hearing on legislation pertaining to eminent domain this past week, which is proposed to specify that eminent domain could not be used to take land for the purpose of economic development by enhancing private-sector projects.

Likovich maintained that Delmarva Power does not make money on the energy that gets transmitted on these lines and said they will work closely with any and all affected property owners.

“We are only allowed to make a return on the investment that we made in building these lines,” he said.

“PJM Interconnection is still evaluating the in-service date for the portion of the line that will extend from Indian River to New Jersey. For that particular section of the line, we may have to speak with some current landowners to obtain additional easements in order to increase the width of the transmission corridor,” he noted.

“There probably will also have to be some new easements that will have to be negotiated with landowners on some sections of the proposed path,” he added. “The bottom line is that we will discuss the project with affected property owners to try to come up with a plan that is beneficial to all parties,” he continued.

Loveland maintains that the approval of the MAPP project could be a turning point for the way people view electricity generation options.

“Now is the time to ask ourselves: Do we want to transfer coal from somewhere else and bring it here, or develop our own energy? Once the transmission line is put in, we are locked in for 50 years. Is that what we want, or do we want to do it differently?”

Vince Maione, MAPP project manager, will brief residents at these meetings on the MAPP process and provide detailed information on how the project will benefit Sussex County. Residents will have ample opportunity to review project maps, voice concerns and question Maione and other Delmarva Power experts, Likovich said.

Pepco Holdings Inc. is one of the largest energy delivery companies in the Mid-Atlantic region, serving about 1.9 million customers in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey. PHI subsidiaries Pepco, Delmarva Power and Atlantic City Electric provide regulated electricity service; Delmarva Power also provides natural gas service and has about 500,000 customers in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The Millsboro community information session will be held Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009, at the Millsboro Civic Center, 322 Wilson Highway, Millsboro, from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more information on the proposed project, visit www.powerpathway.com online or call the MAPP hotline at 1-888-641-MAPP (6277).

Note: Due to inclement weather, Delmarva Power’s Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) community informational meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the Delmar Fire Hall in Delmar, Del., was postponed. The meeting in Delmar is to be rescheduled for a future date. The next MAPP community meeting was set for 6 to 8 p.m., on Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Gumboro Fire Hall in Gumboro, Del.