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Electric Grid Expansion Project Sparks Controversy in Maryland

A proposed 70-mile electric grid expansion across three Maryland counties has ignited tension among local residents. The first information session about the Maryland Piedmont Reliability Project (MPRP), held by New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), drew over 300 attendees to the Hereford Volunteer Fire Department in Monkton.

The event was marked by frustration as residents complained about lack of transparency and insufficient answers to their questions. Del. Nino Mangione expressed concern about the project’s opacity, stating he too had been “left in the dark.”

Jason Kalwa, PSEG’s director, cited “real reliability issues with the grid” as the project’s motivation. However, when pressed about the potential use of eminent domain or whether the project would fuel data centers in Maryland or Northern Virginia, Kalwa’s responses were vague.

Local property owners, including Mt. Airy farmer Adam Frey, voiced worries about potential financial losses and questioned who would truly benefit from the expansion. Frey suggested the project might primarily serve Northern Virginia’s power needs rather than local communities.

The project’s timing coincides with Gov. Wes Moore’s recent signing of the Critical Infrastructure Streamlining Act of 2024, which reduces regulations for data center backup power generators. This legislation aligns with Moore’s goal of transitioning to zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

As the project moves forward, many residents remain skeptical about its impact on their properties and its true beneficiaries, highlighting the complex interplay between infrastructure development, environmental goals, and community concerns.