A coalition of conservation groups, including the New Jersey Sierra Club, is seeking federal court action to stop construction of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line through three national parks while the court considers claims that the line will cause irreversible ecological and scenic damage.
In its record of decision affirming the route for the 500-kV line chosen by PPL (NYSE:PPL) subsidiary PPL Electric Utilities and Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG) (PSEG) subsidiary Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), the National Park Service (NPS) said the chosen alternative will not impair park resources or values.
It will also allow the NPS to preserve park resources and provide for their enjoyment by future generations, according to the document issued Oct. 1.
“This record of decision is not the final agency action for those elements of the decision that require the issuance of a permit or additional [right-of-way (ROW)],” the NPS said. “Final agency action to implement this decision will occur when a permit and ROWs incorporating these terms are completed and issued to the applicants.”
The coalition, which also includes the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the National Parks Conservation Association, said on Dec. 6 they are challenging NPS’ approval of the line as a violation of the NPS Organic Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. They also point to “deficiencies in the agency’s required environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.”
The motion to stop construction of the line until the court rules on whether the NPS approval complies with federal law was filed by EarthJustice and the Eastern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the groups, the coalition added.
The conservation groups said the line, as authorized by the NPS, “would slice through the parks, impairing spectacular scenery, damaging rare geological and ecological resources, and marring the recreational experience for the more than 5.2 million people who visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area each year.”
The other parks involved are the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Construction and pre-construction activities have begun on segments of the line in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and construction activities in the national park units will occur imminently, the coalition said.
“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,” Hannah Chang, EarthJustice attorney, said in the statement.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in the statement: “Since the Park Service’s decision will not protect the parks, we have to. In the 150 years since our first National Park was established, this is one of the worst decisions every made by the National Park Service. If they can do it here, Yellowstone or Yosemite could be next.”
The project would include building new towers that would be taller than the existing towers, clearing trees, and construction staging areas and access roads through the parks, the coalition said, adding that to accommodate this new construction, the NPS is granting a special use permit for construction and an expanded right-of-way.
A PSEG spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Dec. 7 that in some cases, the new towers will be taller than the existing ones.
A PPL spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Dec. 7: “Any delay in this project will put reliable electric service at risk for millions of people. We will fight this motion vigorously.”
The company has filed a petition to intervene in the suit with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
The PSEG spokesperson said the company has filed a petition as well.
“The decision by the National Park Service to approve the project was made after an exhaustive analysis of all the alternatives and the decision they made was correct,” the spokesperson said. “The project will be built on the path of an existing transmission line and the NPS has imposed strict minimization and mitigation requirements and we’ll adhere to those.”
A spokesperson for the NPS could not be immediately reached for comment on Dec. 7.