After experts from BG&E spent 4 1/2 hours telling the Annapolis CityCouncil that expanding the company's Tyler Avenue substation wouldn't harm neighbors, Sandy Travis got her turn.
"I would like to begin by congratulating BG&E for a well-done presentation -- that we the people have paid for," Travis said at a public hearing on the proposed expansion Monday night. "Unfortunately, the residents do not have money to bring in paid experts."
Travis, who lives two blocks from the substation, told the council she had spent two months studying the issue of electromagnetic fields, which a preliminary report last fall by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called a "possible, but not proven" carcinogen.
She also cited a California study funded by the utility industry that found that children living closest to power lines were 2 1/2 times more likely to get leukemia.
"Do we really need to rush?"Travis said."Do we not have time to carefully look into this issue and make sureeverything is the way it should be? I think the health of Annapolis citizens comes first."
Harry Blumenthal, attorney for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., objected to Travis' use of reports, calling the testimony "hearsay."
An epidemiologist hired by BG&E said the council should go ahead with the expansion, because, she said, conclusive data is several years away.
"There is insufficient data to lead you to the conclusion that these fields cause cancer," said Louise Erdreich of the New York firm Bailey Research Associates. "There's not going to be any new data that will sway (the EPA) one way or another."
She said the EPA's study on electromagnetic fields will be completed later this year.
Monday night's public hearing completed six hours of testimony on the proposed expansion. Fifteen residents spoke against the plan and 30 more wrote letters opposing it. The Eastport Civic Association and other community groups opposed the project.
BG&E officials say the expansion is needed or the Annapolis Neck area may experience blackouts next winter. They say they couldn't expand another substation and meet the area's needs, and they say temporary measures and conservation wouldn't work.
The expansion would doublethe substation's capacity to meet the increased demand for electricity in the area. The substation converts electricity from 33,000-volt lines to the 13,000-volt lines that typically run through neighborhoods.
The council will vote on the plan June 10.
For BG&E to win approval, seven of nine council members must vote in favor of the plan. The project requires three-quarters approval because 20 percent ofresidents within 200 feet of the substation have signed a petition opposing it.
Two aldermen -- John R. Hammond, R-Ward 1, and Carl O.Snowden, D-Ward 5 -- may not be permitted to vote on the expansion because of conflicts. The ethics commission will decide the matter on June 4.
Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, whose father worked with transformers and died of cancer, said the council must balance the health and safety of neighbors with the energy needs of other residents.
"If electricity goes out and can't come back in the wintertime, other lives are lost. We have two safety issues here. How can we account for both?" Moyer said.
The officials testified that the expansion would not increase the electromagnetic field at the site. Travis and other residents said the council should hold the company to that promise if the project is approved.