NPS: Best environmental solution is for Susquehanna-Roseland to not be built

The National Park Service’s environmentally preferred alternative for the Susquehanna-Roseland line would be to deny construction of the project.

The NPS late Nov. 21 released its draft environmental impact statement for the 500-kV Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line proposed by PPL Electric Utilities and Public Service Electric & Gas.

The companies want to construct a portion of the line and reconstruct an existing 230-kV line along their current right of way (ROW) through the parks, and detail six alternatives for the route of the transmission line.

“Under Alternative 1 (no action) the permit to approve construction of the 500-kV S-R Line and reconstruction of the 230-kV line would be denied, and current conditions would be presumed to continue,” NPS said in the EIS. “Alternative 1 is the environmentally preferred Alternative.”

The NPS said it does not have a preferred alternative at this time, but will designate one in the final EIS, which is expected next fall. 

The NPS’s final preferred alternative will be “quite different from the environmentally preferred alternative,” a PPL spokesperson told TransmissionHub.

Alternative 1 would have no effect on the existing transmission line outside of NPS property and assumes that the existing line within the parks would remain in place without expansion or replacement, NPS said in the draft EIS.

“In essence, it assumes that current conditions on the ground will continue indefinitely into the future. However, the applicant could seek to expand or replace the existing utility lines within the existing easements through the parks. There are no proposals at this time,” NPS said.

The decision to choose Alternative 1 was based on the available scientific data about the proposal and mitigation measures presented by PPL and PSE&G and collected by NPS, the federal agency said.

“An analysis of this data made it clear that Alternative 1 best meets the requirements of the environmentally preferred alternative,” NPS said.

The PPL spokesperson said the decision was expected.

“The selection of an environmentally preferred alternative is required under the National Environmental Policy Act, but is not indicative of the final decision,” he said. “They’re required to identify the alternative that would have the least environmental impact and that would obviously be not building a line.”

Meanwhile, PPL and PSE&G are discussing mitigation measures with the NPS. The spokesperson declined to name what form those measures might take.

“We still think the route we’ve chosen is the best one. For the four miles it crosses federal lands, it follows the path of an existing power line, so we still believe it’s the right one to pick and has the least impact,” he said.

The companies have asked for an additional 50 ft. of right of way on 7/10 of one mile. “We have enough right of way on the rest of federal lands,” he said.

The project was approved by both the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in 2010. 

Under PPL’s and PSE&G’s proposed route, Alternative 2, the permit would be approved and the Susquehanna-Roseland line would follow the corridor of the existing transmission line through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DEWA), the Middle Delaware River National Scenic and Recreation Area (MDSR) in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA), for 4.3 miles, requiring an expansion of the cleared ROW to approximately 200 to 380 feet in width.

Unlike Alternative 1, Alternative 2 would have a significant impact on geologic resources; wetlands; vegetation; landscape connectivity, wildlife, and habitats; rare and unique communities; archeological, historic structures, cultural landscapes, visitor use and experience, scenic resources, park operations, and infrastructure, access and circulation, the NPS detailed.

“The need for the proposed S-R Line has been expressed several times by PJM in planning documents,” NPS acknowledged. “Whether there is a need for the proposed S-R Line project is not for the NPS to decide, nor is it a factor in the preparation of this EIS. The NPS prepared this EIS to determine whether to grant or deny the applicant’s proposal for construction and ROW permit within NPS lands.”

The project was designated as one of the seven transmission projects to be fast-tracked through the permitting process by the Obama administration’s Rapid Response Team for Transmission.

The draft EIS is open to public comment; the NPS will hold three meetings in January 2012. Comments must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2012.

PPL Electric Utilities is a subsidiary of PPL Corp. (NYSE:PPL) and PSE&G is a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG).

About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.