Transmission turmoil

 

NEIT corridor

Courtesy Piedmont Environmental Council

 

By Joy Eggleston

If PPL Electric Utilities has its way, another hundred miles of Pennsylvania farmland and forests will be sacrificed to the construction of the Susquehanna-Roseland power line, the latest of several high-voltage lines planned for our state. Ironically, the areas sacrificed to the line have no need for the energy carried by it. Instead, PPL will take dirty energy manufactured in Pennsylvania to other states in the Northeast where it will be sold for substantial profits.

While PPL will reap the financial rewards, Pennsylvanians will be forced foot the bill for the construction of the $500 million high-voltage transmission line. Not only will citizens have to subsidize the power line via higher electricity rates, but the fifteen-story, 500,000 volt transmission towers will destroy property values, spoil the landscape, and potentially harm the health of nearby residents.

In addition, PPL will be able to take private property by eminent domain. That’s because the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the federally created National Interest Electric Transmission (NIET) Corridors not only make it easy for power companies to get huge transmission lines approved, but also allows them to seize privately owned land through federal eminent domain. Since 52 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are included in the federally mandated NIET Corridor, thousands of state residents may be affected.

While PPL claims the Susquehanna-Roseland line is necessary due to increased demand, the International Energy Regulation Network reports that domestic electricity production in Pennsylvania actually exceeds the state’s internal demand. In fact, Pennsylvania already produces so much dirty power, that our state is a net exporter of electricity. Despite this, PPL plans to expand its nuclear energy production at the Susquehanna nuclear plant in Berwick by building a third reactor, and proposes additional coal-fired generation at the nearby coal-fired Washingtonville site, which means that a new power line would likely to carry both nuclear and coal-generated electricity.

Fortunately, the NIET Corridor is being challenged on various fronts. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the plan and has met and corresponded with both the Energy Secretary and the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee about the issue. The Senator has also announced that the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee recently granted his request for oversight hearings, which will examine the corridor designation and its effects on regional and national energy policies.

In addition, the Sierra Club, along with ten other organizations, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) challenging that its process for designating the NIET corridors did not follow existing environmental laws, including those put forth in the Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit also contends that the DOE failed to follow the parameters laid out in the Energy Policy Act, which requires the consideration of alternate energy sources and other energy efficiency strategies.

Within our Chapter, both the Lehigh Valley and Otzinachson Groups have passed resolutions opposing the corridor designation and PPL’s power line. Both Groups are now working to build a regional coalition to fight the proposal. Although an exact route for the power line has not been determined, a straight line between the two end points—Berwick in Pennsylvania and Roseland in New Jersey—traverse the Chapter’s Lehigh Valley, Otzinachson, and Northeastern Group territories. To get involved in a local power line issue, contact your Group chair. To learn more about the NIETC and proposed power lines via conserveland.org.

Joy Eggleston is on the Energy Conservation Council of PA’s board of directors and lives on a fourth generation family farm that will be impacted by the transmission lines.

Published April 2008