Is AEP’s Jackson’s Ferry-Wyoming 765 Line Really a Poster Child for “Transmission Delays”?

Yesterday, a low level blogger posted a power company Xerox job on the Washington Post Web site.  This new incarnation of the clueless blogger (that is a role, not an individual person) once again referred to a “12 year delay” of the AEP Jackson’s Ferry-Wyoming line between 1991 and 2003.  The JF-W line pops up constantly in Obama Administration and FERC propaganda and attendant media “reports.”

But is the claim true?

Let’s take a look.  Here is the project’s chronology as it appears on the AEP Web site.  The first thing you should note is that AEP’s original project was not the Jackson’s Ferry-Wyoming project at all.  It was a line from a substation in Wyoming County, WV to a substation at Cloverdale near Roanoke, VA.  This was a route that took the line through a significant section of federally administered national forest and the New River Gorge federal lands.

After thorough review, federal agencies asked AEP to reroute the line through less sensitive areas and along an alternative route that would impact less federal land.  There was no unnecessary delay, just careful science and legally required public input.  In 1998, the East Virginia SCC, the primary transmission siting authority for the East Virginia section of the line, ordered AEP to develop an alternative route for the line that would accomplish this impact minimization.  The SCC determined that AEP could accomplish the same system reliability goals with a line that would end at the Jackson’s Ferry substation near Groseclose, VA and ordered AEP to prepare a report on this alternative route.

After the normal two year process, as required by East Virginia statute, for reviewing the new Jackson’s Ferry-Wyoming route, the SCC approved the new route in 2001.  AEP began clearing right of way in 2003.  Here’s the information right from the AEP Web site:

September 1998 Virginia SCC order directs AEP to fully develop the Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry 765 kV alternative. Report due June 1, 1999.
May 1999 AEP files Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry 765 kV alternative with the SCC.
October 1999 SCC sets evidentiary hearing date for May 1, 2000.
May 2000 Evidentiary hearing conducted in Richmond.
October 2, 2000 SCC hearing examiner finds 765 kV project needed, recommends approval of Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry 765 kV project.
October 27, 2000 AEP requests PSC of West Virginia to amend order granting approval of Wyoming-Cloverdale 765 kV line. Company requests PSC approval of project to either Cloverdale or Jacksons Ferry.
May 31, 2001 Virginia SCC issues final order approving construction of the 765 kV Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry line.
March 13, 2002 West Virginia Public Service Commission amends its 1998 Wyoming-Cloverdale 765 kV project order and approves the project’s construction from Wyoming Station in West Virginia to Jacksons Ferry Station in Virginia.
April 24, 2002 US Forest Service Supervisor makes a draft recommendation to allow AEP’s 765 kV project to cross federal lands along its preferred corridor.
December 31, 2002 US Forest Service issues its Environmental Impact Statement for the Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry project. The EIS includes a record of decision that recommends that the project be allowed to cross federal lands.
December 2003 Right of way clearing begins for the project.

So, where’s the delay? As soon as the Jackson’s Ferry-Wyoming alternative was presented, the SCC took it up. Five years later, AEP was clearing right of way. If AEP had proposed a route that met everyone’s requirements in the first place, there would not have been the initial six year false start with the Wyoming-Cloverdale route.  The problem was as much AEP’s as it was anyone else’s.

Let’s let the East Virginia SCC have the last word, from their comments taken from the now-failed Kelliher/Wellinghoff attempt to take over the US Dept. of Energy’s transmission siting responsibilities:

… the only discussion of any Virginia transmission project included in the documents circulated in support of the delegation proposal is a significant mischaracterization about State review of AEP’s Wyoming-Jackson’s Ferry line, which was approved and constructed in West Virginia and Virginia before 16 U.S.C. Chapter 824p was enacted.  Significant delays for this project were prompted by the actions of Congress and federal agencies, including the Forest Service – and not by any inefficiencies in state siting authority.  As the facts of this delay are well-documented and presumably can be easily verified by DOE and FERC through discussions with your sister federal agencies, it is unfortunate that this project is now being offered to question the effectiveness of state siting processes.

Clearly the SCC was trying to blame all the delays on federal agencies to divert blame from itself.  I would argue that this is also a “mischaracterization.”  The fact is that the siting process worked just fine.  It’s just that AEP didn’t get everything it asked for the first time, and they fought any alternative every step of the way.

Today’s clueless bloggers would do well to do a little research about what actually happened instead of just Xeroxing power company press releases.

3 thoughts on “Is AEP’s Jackson’s Ferry-Wyoming 765 Line Really a Poster Child for “Transmission Delays”?

    • I strongly urge everyone to look at Keryn’s post and Lisa’s AEP slideshow. Toward the end of the slideshow, Lisa shows a shift in public opinion away from opposition toward support for the line after 1999. She implies that this shift came from AEP’s marketing geniuses. Looking at the time line in my main post, you can see that the change in public opinion came from AEP being forced to build on a shorter, better and less disruptive route. And when did this happen? In 1999. Duh, Lisa. I’ll bet your “300 pond elephant” could have figured that one out.

  1. Gotta love power company PR propaganda “leveraging lessons… unlearned.”

    Hey, did you know that Lisa got promoted? Yeah, now she’s President of Transmission for AEP or something like that.

    AEP – Promoting Ineptitude With Our Lever!

    How embarrassing for them. How advantageous for us “NIMBYs.”

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