Psyop #1 – PATH Isn’t About Coal-Fired Power

The WV Advisory Council of the American Lung Association has recently stated that it believes that PATH would increase the amount of coal burned in WV power plants which would increase air pollution, especially deadly particulate matter, in West Virginia.

AEP responded this way:

“It doesn’t matter what the source of the power is, whether coal-fueled, wind-powered or nuclear, we must have a robust power grid to move the power,” Matheney said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “We need to build the PATH line to strengthen the reliability of the power grid in this part of the country, including in West Virginia.”

Parse that sentence carefully.  AEP spokesperson Jeri Metheney is saying that “it doesn’t matter” if PATH results in more air pollution, and kills more West Virginians from lung disease, PATH is still needed.

If you are a regular reader of The Power Line you know that Metheney’s “reliability” reasoning is false.  PATH will actually make the US power grid less reliable.

Note also that Metheney does not deny that PATH will increase the burning of coal at WV power plants.  While an AEP employee knows better than to argue that PATH won’t increase coal burning in WV, AEP/Allegheny leave that argument up to their mouthpieces in the WV media.

Shortly after the Lung Association Advisory Council released its decision, the Charleston Daily Mail issued an editorial concluding:

The grid needs to be strengthened so all sources of power – including wind – can be brought into play.

The editorial started with Metheney’s “it doesn’t matter” approach and ended with the implication that PATH would help wind power as well as coal.  This, of course, is the propaganda that AEP/Allegheny have been putting out for others to repeat.  The power companies claim that the source of electrons going through PATH won’t matter.  PATH will help wind power as much as it will help coal power.

This, of course, is sheer garbage.  PJM Interconnection controls what power would pass through PATH.  PJM’s policy of “economic dispatch” guarantees that coal-fired power is almost always the first power to be sent anywhere power is needed on the PJM system.  Under PJM’s rules, all available power from the cheapest sources must be used to meet increases in load before any more expensive sources can be used.  Coal is always the cheapest source of power, because the coal and power industries do not pay for the costs that coal imposes on the rest of us, such as the destruction of our mountains, clean water and clean air.

PATH starts at the John Amos substation.  This substation is the hub of AEP’s 765 kV system which connects a number of coal fired power plants in the Ohio River Valley.  PATH will not get all its power from the John Amos plant, but the John Amos substation connects PATH to all of the AEP coal fired plants in the area so that PJM can easily transmit power from any of these plants to load zones on the east coast.

Right now there is not enough transmission capacity in PJM to carry all the coal fired power from AEP/Allegheny’s coal fired plants to the east coast at pre-2006 peak demand levels.  AEP/Allegheny can’t reach the most profitable markets in PJM at those times.  Instead, opportunities were opening up for new power generation sources located in east coast states.

New generation on the east coast cannot be coal fired because those urban areas are already severely polluted.  New generation must be in the form of gas fired plants or off shore wind farms because there is no room in the east coast’s air for more pollution.

So, yes, PATH is all about increasing coal fired power generation in WV.  We already have too much capacity in our existing plants, so it is unlikely that any new coal fired plants will be built, but PATH is designed to keep existing plants running at the expense of new alternative energy investment on the east coast.

The WV Advisory Council of the Lung Association is correct.  PATH would generate more air pollution in WV than there is without PATH.