Opposition succeeds in bypassing downtown power line project | News, Sports, Jobs


In rejecting a proposal by a subsidiary of FirstEnergy to place a high voltage power line in downtown Youngstown, the head of the Ohio Power Siting Board underscored the vocal opposition of local residents to the project.

Jenifer French, chair of the board and chair of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, said ahead of Thursday’s 6-0 vote against the plan, “I also want to thank those who contacted the board of administration with their testimony, letters and comments on the proposed project. The Electricity Implementation Board values ​​public input.”

French said the proposal “cannot demonstrate that the project meets the public interest, convenience and necessity as required by Ohio law. Public interest, convenience and necessity should be and are being looked at broadly.

This includes not only ensuring a reliable power supply, but also considering “the impact on recreation, cultural resources, regional planning, and the prosperity of the local community and the State of the Ohio”.

More than 300 local residents had expressed their opposition to the project through letters, emails and postcards to the council, which had the power to accept or reject the project.

American Transmission Systems Inc., a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, has proposed a $23.1 million, 138-kilovolt transmission line 5.2 miles long between Riverbend and Lincoln Park substations, crossing parts of Youngstown and Campbell, and expanding the Riverbend substation to install new equipment.

DOWNTOWN IMPACT

The main objection is that the line would have run parallel to the north side of the Mahoning River, passing behind the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater, crossing Wean Park, passing over the Market Street Bridge, and behind the Covelli Center in downtown Youngstown .

There was a $10 million investment in the amphitheater and park, which both opened in 2019, and $45 million in the center, which opened in 2005. The city has all the facilities.

Opponents of the project said it would destroy investments made to restore the city center.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who attended Thursday’s council meeting in Columbus, said, “This is a big win for the community of Youngstown. We mobilized against a project that would have hurt us and we were heard. We will not accept anything that will disinvest in our city.

After the vote, he told the board, “From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for reflecting on what you did today. You don’t realize how important this is.

Youngstown residents want a good “quality of life,” Brown said. “We want an opportunity to grow.”

Better electrical service in the city is needed, but putting high-voltage power lines downtown was a bad project, Brown said.

“If another conversation takes place with FirstEnergy, we will listen,” he said. “I want the upgrades, and there are alternate routes.”

FIRST REACTION ENERGY

Brittany Al Dawood, spokesperson for FirstEnergy, said after the vote: “The goal of this project has always been to maintain a safe and reliable power supply to businesses in downtown Youngstown and residents of nearby neighborhoods throughout by supporting the growth of the local economy. As we consider the decision (from Thursday), we remain committed to working with stakeholders to identify further opportunities to achieve this goal.

There was an alternate 6.2 mile route on the south side of the river at a cost of $23.9 million which FirstEnergy did not support.

When city officials, business owners, residents and community activists suggested the line be buried, FirstEnergy said it was not in its plans.

FirstEnergy transmission site supervisor Scott Humphreys testified in a Nov. 30 hearing before Electricity Site Board administrative judge Greta See that he told city officials eight days before that “when there is a viable option on the surface, the subsoil isn’t taken into account, one, of the overall impact it has as well as the economic impact it has.

He said the metro is much more expensive than having the line on towers.

Humphreys said: “Through discussions, we identified the possibility of the underground. However, this would be at the expense of the City of Youngstown as they are the primary and only benefit of this landfill.

Humphreys said there would be five to seven utility towers, the two tallest being 140ft and adjacent to the Market Street Bridge. The others would be around 100 to 115 feet tall, he said.

Construction of the project was scheduled to begin in November and end around December 2023.

James S. O’Dell, a senior PUCO implementation specialist who is the chief investigator for the project, had recommended on November 23 that the implementation committee approve the preferred route in the application. His statements supported the October 19 Implementation Committee staff report that recommended approval of the project.

PUBLIC OPPOSITION

But public opposition to the project began in January and has grown steadily.

Protect Downtown from Intrusive Power Lines, a Youngstown organization opposed to FirstEnergy’s plans, provided pre-written postcards for people to send to the settlement council.

State Rep. Jeff Crossman, a nonvoting settler council member who visited Youngstown and spoke out in opposition to the project, said of the vote, “We had a good result. All the support from the community has transformed that. This gives the city the opportunity to work with FirstEnergy with leverage in its pocket and achieve something positive for the community. »

Crossman of Parma, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, said he was “grateful” the council listened to the “youngstown community who worked to make sure their voice was heard on this issue.”

Had the project been approved, he said it “would have damaged the beautiful downtown recreational facilities that the community has worked so hard to build.”

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said what happened is “a great lesson in good citizenship for all of Ohio that all of our voices can be heard and we can bring about change.” .

She added: “I’m so grateful that our community has stepped up, united and shown that we are powerful, and we will not be pushed around.”

[email protected]



Today’s breaking news and more to your inbox









David H. Henry