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PPL plans expansion project

Published July 31. 2014 04:00PM

PPL wants to build a $4 billion to $6 billion transmission line that would cut through the Marcellus shale regions of northeastern Pennsylvania.

The 500-kilovolt line would run about 725 miles from western Pennsylvania into New York and New Jersey, and also south into Maryland.

The 10-year project would reduce electricity costs by enabling the development of new natural gas powered plants along the new lines, and make the energy grid more secure, PPL said in a news release issued today.

PPL hopes to partner with other companies to build the line, but PPL spokesman Paul Wirth said customers will also help foot the bill.

"Customers who benefit will help pay for that improvement on their electric bills," he said.

Because the expense would be spread out over large regions, "it would be a very small amount of money for each customer," Wirth said.

Exactly how much electric bills would rise has yet to be determined.

The exact route the line would take has yet to be determined, but counties with Marcellus shale gas reserves include Bradford, Washington, Tioga, Susquehanna, Lycoming, Greene, Westmoreland, Fayette, Butler and Armstrong.

"The line would run through shale gas regions of northeastern Pennsylvania. It would enable developers to build gas-fired power plants in those regions and would hook into the line. This is intended to be a place for them to hook into so they can deliver power to people who need it," Wirth said.

The company has submitted the proposal to PJM Interconnection, which operates the electricity grid for more than 61 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

A map on PPL website shows the general regions the line might cut through.

"We're not down to the county level. It'll be months at least until the project is accepted by PJM and approved, then we'd move forward with the routing process," Wirth said.

PPL will seek public opinion as it plans the route.

Construction could start as soon as 2017 and finish by 2023.

The time frame depends on how quickly the company can obtain approvals and permits from various regulatory and regional planning entities.

According to PPL, the line would help replace supplies of electricity that will be lost when existing power plants retire.

It also would help prevent power shortages during periods of extremely high demand, like the prolonged severe cold weather this past winter.

The project is expected to create jobs, including thousands of temporary construction jobs, and have a lasting positive impact on the regional economy.

The project also is expected to foster regional economic development as new employers take advantage of a reliable, secure and lower-cost supply of energy.

"The project would help secure this region's ability to deliver adequate supplies of energy for decades to come," PPL President Gregory N. Dudkin said.

"In addition, it would make the electricity delivery network more reliable and more secure over a wide swath of the Mid-Atlantic region."

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