Energy leaders' investments in state have big impact

By The West Virginia Record | May 16, 2006

Gov. Joe Manchin


CHARLESTON -- In West Virginia and throughout the Appalachian region, we're very proud of our mining heritage and we talk so often about how "coal keeps the lights on."

Last week, I was pleased to join American Electric Power Chairman Michael Morris and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to celebrate the completion of a significant project that will carry the electricity produced in West Virginia by our workers and our coal to AEP customers throughout the East.

AEP's dedication of the Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry 765 kV transmission line project, which spans from southern West Virginia into southwestern Virginia, represents a $306 million investment in the region. We appreciate the importance of our heritage-rich coal industry and the economic opportunities it provides our state's working families, and we value AEP's outstanding commitment as an energy leader to ensuring that the lights stay on.

The advances in clean coal technology during the past two decades have been extraordinary, and AEP has been one of the industry leaders in these developments. As Governor of West Virginia, and as chairman-elect of the Southern States Energy Board, I am working hard to find innovative energy solutions that put our people to work while also protecting our environment. AEP is a critical partner in these efforts, and there is great promise in the new Integrated Coal Gasification technology that it will utilize in the new plant it plans to construct in Mason County.

Our ongoing efforts on a national level to attain energy independence also focus on the generation end of the energy issue, but without an adequate transmission grid, the effort is futile.

Earlier this year, Allegheny Energy announced plans to invest more than $1 billion in construction of a new multi-state transmission line for its subsidiary, Allegheny Power ? a move that's expected to boost job growth in West Virginia and Allegheny's service area across the Mid-Atlantic region. The Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line, a 330-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line, will stretch from the Weirton area to central Maryland. AEP has also announced plans for another major transmission line project – a 765-kilovolt line covering some 550 miles from West Virginia to New Jersey.

The economic impact of these recent announcements reaches far beyond our coal industry and energy consumers. West Virginia contractors are already experiencing the benefit of billions of dollars in new investments, providing the state's construction and trades professionals with great job opportunities. AEP's Wyoming-Jackson Ferry project relied heavily support from our state's contractors, while Allegheny Energy's upcoming project is expected to include construction in portions of Hancock, Monongalia, Preston, Grant, Mineral, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Projects such as the ones that AEP and Allegheny Energy are undertaking have a dual benefit –providing the transmission reinforcement needed to keep our area electrically viable, while at the same time operating at high efficiency. These projects also are providing jobs today – for the contractors and construction professionals – and in the future – for our mining industry and electric generation facilities. That's great economic news that we can all celebrate.

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