A coalition of national, regional and local conservative groups are requesting a federal court to stop a transmission line from cutting through three national parks.
The coalition sought a preliminary injunction to stop the 145-mile Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line through the Delaware Water Gap National and Recreational Area, the Middle Delaware National and Recreational River and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
They are asking for a stay while the court considers claims that the powerline will cause irreversible ecological and scenic damage. The coalition filed its request in the Federal Court in Washington, DC.
The powerline, which is planned by PPL Utilities (PPL) in Pennsylvania and the Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) in New Jersey, was approved by the National Park Service (NPS) on October 1, when the agency issued a Record of Decision, affirming the route the utilities preferred. According to supporters, the project will boost electric service reliability, will create jobs and will reduce electric bills for some customers and provide a significant economic stimulus in the region.
PJM Interconnection, the regional entity responsible for planning the transmission system, determined that the new line was necessary to ensure reliable electric service. Opponents, however, say that the project will cause serious and enduring impacts on the parks.
The coalition says that the massive 500KV power lines will mar the recreational experience for more than 5.2 million people who visit the Water Gap each year. They say that NPS approval contradicts the agency’s mission.
“The National Park Service has approved a project that is poised to permanently damage treasured public resources,” said Hannah Chang, attorney with the public interest environmental firm Earthjustice, representing the conservation groups along with the New Jersey-based non-profit Eastern Environmental Law Center. “Construction-related activities in the Delaware Water Gap could begin at any time and, if a preliminary injunction is not granted, the damage will be done before the court even gets a chance to decide the claims that are before it.”
The circumstances demand that construction be put on hold for now, so that the court at least has an opportunity to consider the claims raised, she said.
Once completed, the project is expected to be in service in the spring of 2015. According to the project’s developer, more than 20,000 jobs will be created in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
There is a strange anomaly occurring in the project, however. The National Park Service that has approved the Susquehanna-Roseland powerline project, has adamantly denied a strikingly similar project through the park for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP). It is not clear why the NPS has approved the one and denied the other.