March 27, 2013

Health concerns of electromagnetic fields prompt lawmakers to review bill

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Melissa Giroux of Chelsea is concerned that a powerful electric line soon to be installed in front of her home could cause health problems, especially for her children.

Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea

Contributed photo

So she and others are asking lawmakers to require new lines to be set back at least 300 feet from homes and other areas.

“I’m writing to express my concern regarding the 115,000-volt line installed in the front yard of my Chelsea home and the 345,000 volt line that Central Maine Power plans to install near the end of my driveway very soon,” she wrote in testimony submitted to lawmakers Tuesday. “I have an 11-year-old daughter and a teenage son. They also have cousins who visit here frequently and congregate in the front yard during the spring, summer and fall months.”

Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, sponsored L.D. 950, “An Act to Establish the Electromagnetic Field Safety Act,” at the request of constituent Wanda Curtis. Curtis is a nurse and mother who is a freelance writer for the Kennebec Journal.

“No Maine child should be exposed to an increased risk of childhood leukemia when that can be prevented,” Curtis said.

The bill would require all new electric lines capable of carrying 5,000 volts or more to be placed at least 300 feet from homes, schools, hospitals, daycares, playgrounds, religious facilities and youth camps. Sanderson said she wanted Curtis to get the chance to discuss her concerns with members of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

“This is true, 100 percent constituent service for Wanda,” she said.

The bill is opposed by Central Maine Power, Public Advocate Richard Davies, Bangor Hydro Electric, and Dirigo Electric Cooperative. Opponents say the bill is not practical because the 5,000-volt threshold is too low, a change would cost ratepayers more money, and the science behind the health concerns is inconclusive.

“First, it has not been definitively proved that locations near power lines cause adverse health effects,” according to written testimony provided by Debra Hart, who represents Dirigo Electric Cooperative.

“Second, the requirement that the set back be 300 feet from a number of entities will cause future power lines to be cited based merely on set back requirements and not where they are needed or provide the best options for safe and reliable service.”

The committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming weeks.

Susan Cover — 621-5643
scover@mainetoday.com

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