Coal Tattoo

Tax the power lines?


Governor Joe Manchin has finally unveiled his proposed power line tax legislation. The proposal, promised months ago, was introduced on Monday at the governor’s request in both houses, as SB 505 and HB 3000.

But oh, are the power companies being coy about where they will stand on the bills.

I asked Jeri Matheney at American Electric Power where her company (promoter of the PATH project) could come down. She e-mailed me back:

 We will not oppose the Governor’s transmission line tax bill.

I followed up, asking if AEP would therefore support the legislation. Not exactly, Matheney said:

We don’t intend to lobby for it, but we undersand the Governor’s right to impose taxes and his reasoning for this tax, and we will not lobby against it.

Allen Staggers, spokesman for Allegheny Energy (promoter of the TrAIL line), was even more evasive:

We are evaluating the bill and have been and will continue to work cooperatively with the Governor and the legislature on this bill. 

Recall that Manchin had said he hoped to use part of the revenue from the tax to offset electricity rate hikes that fund construction of such projects, and to provide new revenue for the state and for counties where the TrAIL and PATH lines would be located. The governor even stopped just short of threatening the power companies, hinting he might oppose their projects if company lobbyists didn’t support his tax.

Manchin spokesman Matt Turner told me that the governor’s staff estimates the taxes on TrAIL (which has already been approved by the PSC) and PATH (which has not)  would generate $135 million a year. The money would be split equally among ratepayers, affected counties and the state infrastructure council, Turner said.

Generally, the tax paid by a high-voltage transmission line under the bill is calculated by multiplying the mileage of the line by the voltage carrying capacity, multiplied by $750.

But over at The Power Line blog,  Bill Howley points out that the bill essentially gives PATH a one-third automatic reduction, by — for purposes of this calculation, setting a voltage capacity limit of 500 kilovolts. Under this language, PATH — a 765-kV line — would be taxed as if it were a 500-kV line.

Check Howley’s blog for a lot of other interesting stuff about the governor’s tax proposal, including this Fact Sheet about why Howely wants lawmakers to oppose the bill.

Another interesting thing I noticed in the bill is that it requires developers of future power lines (including PATH — but not TrAIL, since the PSC already approved it) to show why “double circuiting” — running two lines on single tour, such as an existing one — or “re-conductoring” existing lines is not a viable alternative. Opponents and critics of TrAIL argued for such alternatives to try to reduce TrAIL’s possible impacts on the state and its residents.

And don’t forget, there’s an archive of Charleston Gazette stories on the power lines online here.