Casey fights new high-voltage lines

By The Associated Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer

WASHINGTON - Sen. Bob Casey vowed Tuesday to block renomination of a government energy board chief until the Bush administration scales back its push for new high-voltage power lines in his state.

Casey (D., Pa.) took to the Senate floor to denounce the boundaries of a so-called "national interest electric transmission corridor" to promote the construction of new power lines in the mid-Atlantic states.

The corridor, finalized earlier this month, includes most of Pennsylvania as it stretches from Virginia north to Upstate New York. It marks the first time the government has used new powers granted under an energy bill passed by Congress in 2005.

"I'm outraged by how our constituents have been treated by this process so far," said Casey, declaring he would put a hold on the re-nomination of Joseph Kelliher as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The law seeks to prevent future blackouts by giving the federal government authority to permit construction of new high-voltage transmission lines if state authorities fail to do so after a year.

Casey's move doesn't change much for the time being: Kelliher is already the chairman of the FERC, and his term doesn't expire until the end of this year. The senator said he would also push an amendment restricting the scope of the power corridor.