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Utility company powers ahead with transmission line overhaul


By Jamie Wiggan

Following two years of disputes with residents and the county sanitary authority, Duquesne Light is ready to start overhauling its main transmission lines between Pittsburgh and Moon.

Over the next six years, the utility company will replace 106 towers across portions of Pittsburgh, McKees Rocks, Kennedy, Robinson, Crescent and Moon. The century-old lattice towers currently supporting the lines will yield to taller, slimmer unipoles, which utility company representatives say will leave a smaller ground footprint and reduce inspection and maintenance costs.“The transmission lines between Brunot Island and Crescent Township were installed more than a century ago, and it’s time to upgrade that network,” Jason Hartle, a Duquesne Light project manager said in a press release.

“The design and technology improvements will help us deliver energy more efficiently to homes, businesses and communities in that area.”

After the company submitted its initial plan in 2019, about 10 residents filed objections, and the Pennsylvania Utility Commission convened a hearing to resolve the disputes.

The complaints spelled out fears the taller replacement poles would diminish property values, concerns about the health consequences of electromagnetic field activity and specific issues involving right of way access and eminent domain applications.

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority also entered an appearance, citing concerns the line replacement would impact federally-mandated plans to upgrade the authority’s stormwater infrastructure. Both parties later reached a settlement.

Following the hearing, Duquesne Light walked back initial plans to increase the line’s operating capacity to 345 kilovolts, which numerous residents considered a health risk.

The revised proposal, accepted by the utility commission Oct. 28 maintains the current limit of 138 kilovolts.

Debate exists within the scientific community on the exact health impacts of living near to electromagnetic fields. Federal and Pennsylvania laws do not currently regulate transmission limits. Construction is expected to begin imminently and finish in 2027.

Customers should expect “occasional scheduled outages,” lasting two hours or less, with advanced notice given, according to a press release.

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