Bottom Line Energy Issues - October 2001 - Win Some, Lose Some

Oct. 8, 2001

By far the largest gas pipeline project in the Southeast is on schedule to transport natural gas from across the Gulf of Mexico from Alabama to Florida. With capacity of 1.1 billion cubic feet per day, this is the first new line to serve Florida in more than 40 years. The line is jointly owned by Duke Energy and Williams Energy. More than 200 miles of the 431 mile line will be laid under water. The Gulfstream Natural Gas System will assure adequate capacity by June 2002 for power generation and residential use.

San Francisco plans two ballot measures in November that, if approved by voters, will authorize eminent domain to seize electrical generation and distribution systems presently owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. If passed the measures will result in formation of a municipal utility district that would be led by elected officials. PG&E said, "We will protect our assets." PG&E is gearing up to oppose the measures and if that fails, lawsuits seem likely.

A 9-mile 500-kilovolt power line in Washington state proposed by the Bonneville Power Administration is being opposed by protectors of the Cedar River watershed. The environmentalists said, "We want to keep a pristine watershed that is in the process of being restored to all its glory." The proposed project would include 40 transmission towers capable of carrying up to 200 megawatts per year for the next decade. BPA says the route is the cheapest of alternatives and would have the least environmental impact because it runs parallel to an existing line. Seattle city officials fear contamination of its water supply and does not want to build a new $150 million filtration plant if BPA builds the power line. The preliminary environmental impact statement is available at Can you say BANANA?

Although its 17,000 miles of transmission lines comprise one of the world's largest electricity distribution network, the Tennessee Valley Authority plans to spend $1 billion on upgrades and expansions over the next five years, including eight new 500-kilovolt lines. The TVA lines once carried its own power to 150 plus local distributors, but now independent power producers use the system to get their product to market across the nation, up to 9,000 megawatts or one third of its own load.. TVA Pres. O.J. Zeringue said, "There's been a significant spread between what is invested in generation and what is being invested in transmission. This will be a major problem."

A citizens group called Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) has mounted a legal attack against a 240-mile power line approved the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The $175-million project will enable means to tap power sources from the West and Canada by Wisconsin Public Service and Minnesota Power. The line will cut through forests, farmland, and cross several popular WI rivers. In addition to the PUC, a coalition of customer, small utilities, and municipal advocates called Energy Lifeline Coalition supports the plan. The line would eventually be owned and operated by a proposed independent organization called the American Transmission Company. However, opponents noted, "This issue is not dead and will be decided by the courts."

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