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Supersized Power Line Through NEPA: Is it Necessary?

CLARKS SUMMIT — Some of the mountains that frame the Lackawanna Valley now have huge cuts across the top. The view of the landscape is creased after construction crews cleared the brush, and cut down hundreds of trees to make electric transmission line corridors wider.

You can see the cuts near the “Notch” near Clarks Summit.

“They`re kind of an eyesore,” said Ashley Wolff of South Abington.

People see the views scarred by the newer wider transmission lines.

It’s all part of PPL Electricity’s project to meet future power demands by sending power from the nuclear power plant near Berwick through five Pennsylvania counties to New Jersey.

The new line will carry twice the electricity through wires mounted on poles more than twice as tall as what’s there now.

“Its going to be like Eiffel Towers marching across the hillsides, really,”
said Sierra Club of Pennsylvania member Martha Carbone.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups hoped the Delaware Water Gap National Park would be the battleground where they`d stop the transmission line widening project.  Instead, work is already underway.

Despite construction, Sierra Club leaders want regulators to take one more look at the power line claiming future demand for electricity will be less than power companies predicted.

In October, the Federal Energy Information Administration released projections for electric use in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Compared with its projections three years ago, when the power line was approved, the agency’s lowered it`s predicted electricity demand by 9% for the year 2020, 10% for 2025, and 12% by 2030.

Sierra Club leaders said that drop in demand makes the mega power line unnecessary.

“We`re building a very expensive extension cord to bring the electricity into the New York and New Jersey markets,” said Carbone.

“It`s a comment we hear a lot, but it does miss the point,” counters PPL Spokesman Paul Wirth.

Wirth said aging power lines throughout the northeastern grid put much of New York and New Jersey at risk, which is why his company calls this line critical.

“You have to design the transmission system to handle the peaks: the coldest winter nights and the hottest summer days when people are using the most electricity,” said Wirth. “Those overloads exist now and are projected to get worse.”

But those overloads exist in and around New York City.

What about Northeastern Pennsylvania?

Wirth said this super highway of a transmission line has an off ramp in Scranton.

“It will feed the Lackawanna Substation, which feeds the Scranton Wilkes-Barre area and provide increased reliability there as well,” said Wirth.

When construction is done, PPL promises to landscape the roads and paths, seeding grass and planting shrubs to replace fallen trees and dirt roads.


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