Regional Power Line Merits Questioned

SNOW HILL — Representatives from Dorchester County visited their counterparts in Worcester Tuesday to discuss the future of the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP), the 150-mile interstate power transmission line planned to run from Virginia through New Jersey.

The power line could cut directly through Dorchester, a fact many residents of the county take issue with at this time. While Worcester would not be in direct contact with the line, the County Commissioners did vote to support it several years ago when the plan originally surfaced.

“It all starts with the premise, ‘if the electric company says we need it, we need it,’” attorney Chip McCloud told the commissioners on Tuesday.

McCloud, along with Dorchester Commissioners Tom Bradshaw and Rick Price, came before the commissioners in an effort to air-out concerns Dorchester had over MAPP.

Some of the worries expressed included what possible impact threading an interstate power transmission line through Dorchester might have on the environment, the economy, historic sites and several other factors.

“If it [MAPP] is needed, then we’ll deal with the risk,” McCloud said.

However, McCloud questioned the necessity of the pathway. While he did not argue that having an interstate transmission line close at hand would almost certainly improve the reliability of power in the area, he did wander if a little extra dependability was worth the cost and impact of the line.

“You can go to the ends of the earth to get reliability,” he told the commissioners, adding that there was a point where it became overkill, comparing the situation to driving around in a car with two spare tires.

McCloud also pointed out that MAPP was considering running lines underwater through the Chesapeake Bay and Choptank River, actions he questioned environmentally.

Besides any possible ill effects MAPP might bring to the area, McCloud highlighted the estimated cost of the project. The pathway is expected to cost around $1.2 billion. PJM, the major regional distributor of power, has mentioned spreading out payment for MAPP across its entire 51 million person network, meaning customers in Maryland might be paying around 30 cents per month extra towards the pathway’s construction.

However, there is a question of whether customers who wouldn’t benefit from MAPP could be asked to help finance it. If not, then Maryland residents might end up paying more than that extra 30 cents.

Commissioner Louise Gulyas understood the concerns McCloud was presenting but felt that the added reliability of the pathway could greatly benefit the Eastern Shore.

“It’s a preventative type thing,” agreed Commissioner Virgil Shockley, citing MAPP as a good back-up when power issues arose.

Shockley did sympathize with Dorchester, though, especially with what negative effects threading the line through the area might cause.

“If I were you guys, I’d be raising hell, too,” Shockley said.
“My question is, ‘what do you want from us?’” Gulyas asked McCloud.

McCloud replied that he was not hoping to convince the commission to reverse support for the project, only to give a more comprehensive understanding of Dorchester’s point of view and to paint a bigger picture of the situation.

“There are alternatives to this project,” asserted McCloud.

McCloud voiced the opinion that the Eastern Shore should be trying to establish more self-reliant power generation instead of relying on importing electricity.

While no action was asked of the commission, it did agree that McCloud had given them a lot to think about.

“You’ve raised some valuable points,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.