Bg&e Ponders Rate Hike After Vote

Council's Rejection Of Expansion Will Mean Higher Costs,utility Says

July 10, 1991|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

Annapolis lawmakers' decision to reject a city power substation expansion will lead to more costly "stopgap" measures to provide electricity and perhaps higher electric bills, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.officials said yesterday.

But no power outages will result, said BG & E officials, who had repeatedly warned of potential blackouts unless the Tyler Avenue substation could be expanded.

Following Monday night's City Council vote to deny the $3 millionexpansion because of fears that electromagnetic fields pose a cancerthreat, BG & E officials called such fears unjustified.

John A. Metzger, a BG & E spokesman, said the expansion would not increase electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, and warned that Annapolis area residents' electricity bills could rise as a result of the decision.

"We don't think it is warranted to take action based on fear instead of facts," Metzger said. "We're just very surprised and disappointed by this decision."

Metzger said BG & E must resort to alternatives to ensure that none of the fast-growing Annapolis Neck Peninsula is left without power next winter and summer.

To meet demand, he said, theutility may rely on power from the

downtown Annapolis Cedar Park station to feed the Tyler Avenue substation via high-voltage power lines.

The "stopgap" measures likely will increase short-term costs,but Metzger was unsure how much rates might increase.

The utilitywill consider going to court to fight the decision, said William E. Colburn, a BG & E attorney. Colburn said he would review the council's resolution denying the expansion before BG & E decides its next move.

Colburn said the council's vote marks the first time a BG & E project has been denied because of fears of a cancer risk.

Wayne C.Turner, the Ward 6 Republican whose district includes the substation, sponsored the council resolution quashing the expansion.

Turner initially expressed support for the project, which would have doubledthe substation's capacity to meet the ever-growing demand for electricity. But he said BG & E had failed to prove the EMFs would not jeopardize residents' health.

"What we're doing is showing there is a clear consensus that we believe this is a safety issue and a health issue in the city of Annapolis," Turner said.

However, Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, suggested the city should have approved the expansion under certain conditions, such as assurances that the EMFs would not increase and that independent measurements would be taken to verify compliance.

She suggested the city should have worked with BG & E to minimize health risks, to come up with an aggressive electricity conservation campaign and to have unsightly utility wires buried.

"We would have been in a much stronger position by taking a role in setting standards (for the expansion)," Moyer said. "By denying this, we give this opportunity up. We have nothing."

A resolution with such conditions attached also would stand a much better chance in court than an outright denial, should BG & E pursue legal action, Moyer said.

Aldermen John R. Hammond, R-Ward 1, and Ruth C. Gray, R-Ward 4, also opposed Turner's resolution.

Joining Turner in voting for the resolution to deny the expansion were Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins; Aldermen Dean L. Johnson, I-Ward 2; Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5; and Terry DeGraff, R-Ward 7.

After the vote, Hopkins said he would consider Turner's request that the administration appoint a committee to look into the expansion and potential health risks.

Aldermen and residents who opposed the expansion agreed that the city should work with BG & E to ensure that the utility meets the growing demand forelectricity without endangering residents' health.

Research on the risks posed by electromagnetic fields from power lines and transformers remains inconclusive, however, and some scientists say they'll need five to 10 years to reach a definitive conclusion.

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