This project was approved by the ICC on October 22, 2014. The Commission reviews several factors when evaluating a project such as this including: the need for a proposed transmission line project, the route location and the ability of the applicant to fund, manage and build the project. ComEd and other parties participated in the approval process by submitting testimony, participating in hearings, and providing responses to data requests related to these and other topics within the proceeding. This information is publicly available through the ICC’s website under
Docket number 13-0657.
The need for the Grand Prairie Gateway Project was first identified as part of the annual regional planning process managed by PJM, the independent Regional Transmission Organization that operates the ComEd transmission system. It’s responsible for ensuring that the competitive wholesale energy market operates appropriately and fairly for customers. PJM is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
One of PJM’s priorities is to monitor congestion on the system. Congestion occurs when the wires do not have enough room to allow for all of the electricity required to meet the needs of customers. This congestion causes a traffic jam, so to speak, on the system.
When congestion occurs, there are additional costs and those costs are passed on to customers. At some point, the congestion becomes so serious that the PJM rules require additional transmission to be built to alleviate that pressure and reduce costs to customers. That’s what led to the Grand Prairie Gateway Project.
An independent study shows that when the new line is in operation, customers will benefit in three main ways: 1) it will reduce high congestion costs that customers are now paying and would continue to pay; 2) it will provide a large pathway (like a superhighway) for cheaper energy from points out west to get to population centers which will lower overall energy costs; and 3) that cheaper energy will displace older, less-efficient coal-based generation which will result in significant emissions reductions.
The study shows that the line will create savings for customers of approximately $1.2 billion in the first 15-years that the line is in service. These savings will result from reduced congestion charges and from ComEd’s ability to import cheaper and cleaner energy from the west. Note, these are savings that will be realized by customers, not ComEd, and they have no bearing on the cost of construction.
What does the transmission line siting process include?
The siting of a transmission line is complex process. This Project has included extensive data gathering across 50 different categories throughout the roughly 700 square-mile Project study area. Categories included: existing infrastructure and electric transmission facilities, land use and zoning features and environmental features, among others.
In sum, the data was gathered from more than 50 sources, the majority of those being federal, state or local governmental agencies. This data was then incorporated into an electronic system that uses satellite imagery. A team of experts then began identifying and assessing potential corridors and ultimately, the primary and alternate routes.
The routing of any electrical transmission line also involves studying the potential for displacement of land or land uses, and the potential human and environmental impacts that may result from the construction operation and maintenance of the project.
On December 2, 2013, ComEd submitted to the ICC its application identifying the primary and alternate routes.
Our filing followed three rounds of public open houses – nine total – and more than 2,000 people attended. Each public open house included informational sessions that addressed topics such as need and benefits, engineering and construction, routing and environmental considerations. We also held nine stakeholder working group meetings over six months, and these meetings provided us the opportunity to talk about the project in detail with state, county and municipal leaders.
When did ComEd begin purchasing property in these areas?
More than 30 years ago, ComEd began purchasing some property between its Byron and Wayne substations, but did not acquire all rights that are necessary to construct the line. Through our routing study, we identified the proposed routes without letting prior property rights dictate the route selection process.
We have worked hard to identify, evaluate and compare potential routes. We have used the information gathered as part of the public process to find a reasonable balance between environmental, social, economic, engineering and cost factors.
We believe that we submitted the best primary and alternate routes possible, given the complexity of the project and a requirement by the ICC to achieve a least-cost solution in order to minimize the impact on customers, who ultimately bear the costs of the project. We must balance many interests and obligations as we create a solution that meets our responsibility to the entire ComEd service territory of northern Illinois.
Do transmission lines produce electric and magnetic fields?
Electric and magnetic fields are present wherever there is a flow of electric current, whether in appliances in the home, electrical appliances or power lines. Electric and magnetic fields are strongest right below overhead lines and the fields dissipate quickly as one moves away from the centerline of the wires.
Are electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) harmful?
After more than 30 years of worldwide research, the sum of scientific evidence currently available and human experience do not establish that environmental levels of power-line EMFs are hazardous to health. No direct or causal links have been established between electric and magnetic fields and adverse health effects.
The scientific data on EMF and health have been assembled and reviewed by many independent groups of research and health scientists, including the World Health Organization, the National Radiation Protection Board (UK), the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the American Physical Society (the professional society for American physicists), the American Cancer Society, the Swedish National Health and Welfare Board, and others. These “blue-ribbon” panels do not identify EMF from any type of electric-power transmission line as unsafe.
Do transmission lines negatively impact property values?
We are not aware of a study or case that proves that close proximity to transmission lines has had a negative impact on property values. If we need to seek to acquire an easement from a property owner, we would compensate that property owner for the fair market value of the easement and any reduced use of the property.
How does ComEd negotiate easements with land owners whose property will be used to locate transmission facilities?
When ComEd constructs a new transmission line or upgrades a line that requires the use of a portion of a private landowner's property, ComEd must comply with ICC regulations regarding that process. ComEd will first send the landowner a letter advising that the company desires to acquire easement rights. The letter also will explain the easement acquisition process and schedule. The letter also advises that ComEd does not have eminent domain authority, or the authority to seek to condemn an easement unless and until the ICC grants it that authority. After a 14-day waiting period following the letter, a ComEd representative will contact the landowner to discuss the request. In advance of that contact, the landowner may contact ComEd directly with questions or concerns. ComEd would typically utilize a third party land appraiser to evaluate the fair market value of the easement and would offer the landowner that value.
It is important for landowners to make ComEd aware of all issues that are pertinent to the landowner's property and to discuss how the proposed easement and transmission line influence the property. During the negotiations, ComEd will follow all required processes, provide information and answer questions about easement terms and conditions.