Coalition asks court to overturn NPS decision on Susquehanna-Roseland line

Ten East Coast conservation groups filed a lawsuit on Oct. 15 seeking to revoke the record of decision (ROD) recently issued by the National Park Service (NPS) on the route alternative for the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that the NPS acted contrary to its duty to protect park areas from the adverse impacts of the transmission line and asked the court to “invalidate the NPS environmental analysis and ROD and enjoin the NPS decision to approve the project.”

The conservation groups are concerned about a part of the Susquehanna-Roseland line – a joint project of PPL Electric Utilities and Public Service Electric and Gas – that upgrades infrastructure in an existing right of way (ROW) through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

The developers plan to intervene in the lawsuit, but it is not clear when that application would be made to the court, a spokesperson for PPL told TransmissionHub Oct. 16.

“We see this lawsuit as a threat to reliable electric service for millions of people throughout the mid-Atlantic region,” the spokesperson said. “We intend to fight the action vigorously on behalf of the customers who need this power line.”

The lawsuit, naming Kenneth Salazar, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, and Dennis Reidenbach, Northeast Regional Director of the NPS, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Jersey Highlands Coalition, New York–New Jersey Trail Conference, National Parks Conservation Association, Rock the Earth, Sierra Club, and Stop the Lines.

According to the lawsuit, construction of towers that are twice the height of existing towers in the parks’ ROW would violate the National Park Service Organic Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and non-disclosure in the supporting environmental impact statement (EIS) of details critical to understanding actual project effects violates the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The [EIS] failed to assess fully the total and cumulative impacts outside the parks that will have both direct and indirect effects on the downstream natural resources within the park,” Maya van Rossum with the Delaware Riverkeeper said in a statement. “The power line will cross over both the Lackawaxen River and Bushkill Creek outside the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Construction impacts, including clear-cutting forests, filling wetlands, and building roads, will harm water quality and habitat because both of these tributaries flow directly into the Delaware River within the park.”

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is the eighth most visited national park in the United States and encompasses more than 67,000 acres on the Delaware River in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.