Harriet Tubman, the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway and the Future of Energy on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: An Update

Posted on: April 15th, 2010 by Guest Writer

Written by Elizabeth Beckley

Preservation challenges come in many forms, and often success is found through the added strength we gain from our ‘partners in the field’ who join us in raising our voices to a pitch that cannot be ignored. Last October, I reported on a crisis taking shape here in Dorchester County, Maryland, called the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway or MAPP -- one of four proposed extra-high voltage power lines designed to deliver coal-fired energy from West Virginia to New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area.

Originally conceived to transect the heart of the newly-proposed Harriet Tubman National Historic Park, the threat of this intrusion into what many feel is a sacred landscape was not just alarming, but galvanizing. Suddenly the silos came down, and people across the region came together to let government at every level and the utility companies know that this was not their version of the future for either Maryland or the Eastern Shore.

This month, Preservation Maryland, in partnership with Maryland Life magazine, released “Endangered Maryland,” our annual listing of urgently threatened sites and communities. One of the 11 is the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Cultural Landscape in Dorchester and Caroline Counties because of the potential impact the MAPP project could have on this remarkable place.

The proposers of MAPP - Pepco Holdings, Inc., parent company of Delmarva Power - have asked that the project be suspended until new studies by the electricity grid operator are released this summer that will describe future electricity transmission needs in the Mid-Atlantic region. Although electrical demand has been declining across those portions of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia that make up the Delmarva Peninsula, this is no time to breathe easy. The power companies continue to define the route of the MAPP line, acquire land easements and complete the necessary environmental studies.

During this past legislative session, companion bills were introduced in the State Senate and House of Delegates to require Maryland to develop a comprehensive energy blueprint. The legislation would have required the Public Service Commission to approach long-range energy analysis and planning in a way that is consistent with state environmental laws. The bills would also have directed the Public Service Commission to consider all available energy options when proposals are made for new energy generation or transmission. Though this important legislation failed, there appears to be continuing interest in mandating such a plan. So, stay tuned, it’s not over yet!

For more information on MAPP, the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park and Endangered Maryland, please follow these links:

Elizabeth Beckley is the Eastern Shore Field Director for Preservation Maryland and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She can be reached directly at ebeckley@preservationmaryland.org.

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