Concerns voiced over PPL lines

Alex Sponza is concerned about his wife’s health.

The Covington Twp. resident also is concerned that PPL Electric Utilities’ proposed 230-kilovolt power line that could run through Clifton, Covington and Thornhurst townships will worsen his wife’s health. Mr. Sponza, who joined more than 75 residents on Monday to learn about the review process for the proposal, said he is willing to fight.

“The Pennsylvania Constitution tells us we have the right to own property and protect it,” said Mr. Sponza, as he leafed through a folder citing what he said are negative effects of power lines. “I want to protect my property.”

Mr. Sponza’s sentiment was shared by many who attended Monday’s meeting.

Elaine Evans, chairwoman of the Thornhurst Twp. Board of Supervisors, said a concern is that PPL’s current proposed route would cause harm to feeder streams that lead to the Lehigh River. She said they want to preserve their community’s rural landscape and natural resources.

“We just want them to move it,” Ms. Evans said. “We’re fighting the placement of it so we can minimize the impact.”

Residents have prepared an alternative route to present to authorities.

“All the streams have been recognized as having the very highest quality,” said Bonnie Smith, president of North Pocono Citizens Alert Regarding the Environment.

At the meeting, Senior Assistant Consumer Advocate Dianne Dusman described the process by which the state Public Utility Commission will review PPL’s proposal. But she and a spokesman reached after the meeting also stressed that the proposal has not yet been submitted to the state, something expected to happen in the second half of the year, she added.

The $200 million project will stretch over 57 miles. PPL hopes to have the new lines in service starting in 2014, according to its website.

Ms. Dusman stressed that people can continue to participate in the process and provide input, including during public hearings.

“You can say to (PUC) ‘I want to be involved in this because I want my voice to be heard,’ ” Ms. Dusman said.

Such public input can influence the process, she added, noting that companies sometimes alter plans, pull plans or go ahead with existing plans.

Reached after the meeting, PPL spokesman Paul Wirth said PPL continues to accept public input on the project.

“We welcome comments,” he added.

Mr. Wirth said the purpose of the project is to serve an increasing demand for electricity and to reduce the frequency and length of power outages.

“We are still negotiating with property owners to purchase right of way, and those negotiations are continuing, and we will file an application with PUC for approval later this year,” Mr. Wirth said. “The route we have chosen is the best balance of minimizing impact on the people and the environment.”