HomeFocus On vs. Power Lines

vs. Power Lines

Peter Crownfield wrote on Oct 6, 2011 re: “Power line being fast-tracked”:

The Express-Times doesn’t seem to realize that this power line will do nothing whatsoever to improve power supplies to this region…..

Express-Times Thursday, October 06, 2011, 4:00 AM


Susquehanna-Roseland power line project could use a jump-start

The Obama administration has awakened to the fact that updating the nation’s declining electrical grid isn’t just essential, it’s a good way to invest in the economy and get people working. It also must have sunk in that allowing the National Park Service to take forever to study a proposed 500-kilovolt transmission line from Susquehanna, Pa., to Roseland, N.J., is a great way to send the northeast United States back to the Dark Ages.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday that the administration intends to fast-track the permitting of seven transmission-line projects, citing the need to replace overburdened lines, create jobs and develop a “smart grid” to help prevent blackouts, like the one that disabled most of the Northeast in 2003.

The proposed 130-mile Susquehanna-Roseland line could move to the top of the “to-do” list, and that’s a welcome development. An Energy Department spokesman said a final decision on the project, expected to create up to 2,000 jobs, might be reached by the end of this year.

Controversy has dogged this project since it was proposed by PPL Electric Utilities Corp. and Public Service Electric & Gas. The plan was approved by regulators in both states after public hearings. The review process identified the best of three proposed routes through the two states and sought to minimize the impact on property owners and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

That’s where the National Park Service comes in. Its environmental impact statement process threatened to take two years, even though the new power line is proposed for the right of way of an obsolescent 250-kilovolt line that must be replaced. The New Jersey Sierra Club and other groups have sued to overturn regulatory approval, saying the new line isn’t needed and will discourage development of renewable sources of power.

Yet the need to upgrade the nation’s transmission lines is seen in the yearly increase in the number of blackouts, such as the one that hit the western U.S. in September.

The research and regulatory review of the Susquehanna-Roseland line has been done. The logical choice for the route was made, rejecting a more disruptive option that would have carved a new path through Northampton and Warren counties. The NPS is right to seek to minimize the impact on the recreation area, but the process shouldn’t attempt to rewrite regulatory decision-making.

The aftermath of Hurricane Irene gave many people in our area a taste of living without electricity — some as long as a week — and it wasn’t fun. While we can’t redirect the path of natural disasters, we can prevent future power shortages resulting from lack of planning and incessant legal challenges. The Obama administration is on the right track in expediting the approval process.

Express-Times Thursday, October 6, 2011

Susquehanna-Roseland power line acceleration angers local politicians, environmentalists

By Phillip Molnar

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday he will “accelerate” the controversial Susquehanna-Roseland power line project after three years of opposition by environmentalists and some lawmakers.

The power line will double the height and more than double the capacity of an existing 145-mile power line which traverses publicly owned lands in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The power companies involved say the upgrade is necessary to meet power demands. Opponents argue clean energy options, like solar, limit the need for it.

The Obama administration said in a statement its reason for the fast-tracking was “job creation and modernizing America’s infrastructure.”

Roughly 2,000 jobs will be created by the project, according to the two companies building the power line, Public Service Electric and Gas Co. and PPL Electric Utilities.

The route for the lines already approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities crosses Hardwick Township in northern Warren County and a stretch of Pennsylvania north of Northampton County.

Hardwick Township Committeeman James Perry slammed Obama’s decision. The governing body of the 1,696-population township has long opposed the project.

“Job creation? That is ridiculous,” said Perry, a Republican. “The people working on it already have jobs. It’s not going to create any new jobs that I’m aware of.”

Perry said he was unconvinced New Jersey needed extra power and that the line was being built for the benefit of New York City.

“It doesn’t affect us. We don’t get anything out of it,” he said of doubling the capacity of the line from 230 kilovolts to 500 kilovolts.

Perry said the National Park Service called him as recently as last week to find locations in the township for public comment meetings on the project.

The park service, the final entity need to sign off on construction, is in the process of crafting an environmental impact statement on the project.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area spokeswoman Deb Nordeen declined comment on the decision and said park officials that could comment were unavailable.

The state-approved route crosses the Delaware Water Gap park and other federal parkland: the Appalachian Trail and the Middle Delaware National Scenic River.

The Susquehanna-Roseland project was just one of seven projects fast-tracked by the president through a new Rapid Response Team comprised of nine federal agencies.

The agencies will speed up the process by coordinating permits, review and consultation processes through federal and state agencies, according to the White House statement.

Power companies maintained Wednesday the need exists for the project.

“We need to maintain the reliability of our electric system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson said. “We have a number of violations the grid operator has identified, and that’s why we need to upgrade the line.”

PPL spokesman Paul Wirth said the companies already had right-of-way in the national parks so “it makes the most sense to use that route.”

Although power lines already exist, Perry said the difference is in the size.

Poll: Should the Susquehanna-Roseland power line construction be put on the fast track?

Current towers are anywhere from 72.5 to 187 feet high, but the new towers could be as high as 195 feet, according to PSE&G.

“It makes it terrible to look at in the national parks or anywhere in Hardwick … seeing these huge towers going through people’s yards,” Perry said of the proposed upgrades. “I think Hardwick is a beautiful place to live, and having towers like that just make the town look bad.”

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told the Star-Ledger on Wednesday the government had “resolved some of the issues on this project” but environmentalists vowed to keep the fight going tonight.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the organization still plans on appealing a Board of Public Utilities decision from February to allow construction and is closely watching the government’s next move.

“Even if Salazar wants to try to streamline permitting, there’s a certain law called the National Environmental Policy Act that he has to still follow,” Tittel said. “We’re going to hold them to following the law and if they don’t we’ll sue them.”


This entry was posted in Advocacy & Activism, Decentralization, Environmental Justice, Land Use.

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