The majority of the Mt. Storm-Doubs line is located in West Virginia, with shorter lengths in both Virginia and Maryland. In the other two states, Dominion (or in the case of Maryland, Allegheny Energy) must go through the entire PSC application process to be granted a permit for the project. In West Virginia, however, Dominion does not need a certificate, just a simple ruling by the Commission. The WV PSC staff has recommended that such a ruling be issued.
"Therefore, the Staff recommends the Commission enter an order finding this project in the “ordinary course of business.” Staff recommends the Commission enter such an order as soon as possible so VEPCO can start the necessary preparatory work that will allow construction of this project to start as soon as the TrAIL line goes into service in the spring of 2011."
In the staff's recommendation, Earl Melton, Director of the Engineering Division is quoted as follows:
"For Mr. Melton, the most complex thing about the project will be dealing with the tight time lines during the spring and fall of the year when there will be enough slack in the system to allow this line to be taken out of service. VEPCO will have to work closely with PJM to find those openings, however, Mr. Melton points out that PJM has already realized the critical need to have this project completed with the October 28, 2010 decision by the TEAC. Mr. Melton continues that he believes this project is extremely urgent and needs to proceed as quickly as possible once the TrAIL line makes it possible. On October 18, 2010, he inspected several structures of this line and he found the condition to be consistent with the pictures and descriptions provided in the petition. One factor he finds relevant not mentioned in the petition is the fact much of this line crosses the Allegheny Front and is subject to severe weather such as high winds and heavy ice loading. All of these factors lead him to believe this line needs to be replaced as soon as possible."
If Dominion gets the green light from the WV PSC, they can get started right away on the vast majority of the project in that state while they wait for their Certificate in the other two states. Dominion feels confident that they can get this project completed by 2015. But wait, Herling thinks they can't and "VEPCO will have to work closely with PJM to find those openings". Does PJM intend to hamper completion of this project so that the need for their pet PATH project doesn't evaporate before 2015?
Consider the opinion of the WV PSC's engineer that the structural issues could cause "catastrophic tower collapse". If PJM delays this project by playing its dysfunctional games, not only are they putting the grid at risk, but the lives and property of the landowners on whose property the currently deteriorated structures lie. Herling thinks these structures can withstand another 9 years of use simply to create a need for PATH. It's not about the reliability of the grid at all, it's about PJM's Dysfunction Junction politics. If this game continues to be played, perhaps the landowners at risk ought to take court action against PJM. Perhaps the electric customers dependent on the Mt. Storm-Doubs line should as well.
Dominion also has other issues standing in its way when it comes to landowners. They need to clear up the issue of PATH's proposed shifting of the Mt. Storm-Doubs right-of-way and rebuild of portions of the line in two separate locations in Jefferson County shown on this map. If I were a landowner on one of these "rebuild" sections, I certainly wouldn't allow this project to proceed without the legal assurance that I would not be subject to another rebuild project within a short period of time to accommodate the PATH project.
Dominion also has to contend with landowners who are suspicious and angry due to PATH's bungling of public relations and are also very sophisticated when it comes to transmission line projects. These folks aren't going to be gullible or naive and Dominion will have to treat them with honesty and respect if they want their cooperation.
If Dominion can manage to jump these hurdles, they will prove Herling wrong.