Saturday, January 21, 2012

Power Lines Through The Water Gap?

The NJSpotlight website carries a potentially troubling article about power company proposals to run power lines through the Delaware Water Gap, if they get "fast track" approval from the National Park Service.

The article or post is called "Utilities Offer to Swap Open Land for Power Project OK; Proposal comes as new hearings begin on environmental impact of high-voltage power lines through Delaware Water Gap and Highlands" and is written by Tom Johnson on 20 January 2012.

As I understand it, the utilities -- Public Service Electric & Gas, PPL Electric Utilities -- want to be able to run their new high voltage power line through the area and think they can "mitigate" the damage by purchasing land elsewhere and donating that land to the Park Service to make up for it.

The utilities claim that "the acquisitions would protect scenic vista for hikers on the Appalachian Trail and significantly expand National Park Service land holdings in and around the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area".

There isn't a map with this article to point out just where the line will run, but it does say that "The 145-mile proposal mostly follows the path of an existing 85-year-old power line, but has generated enormous opposition because a portion of its 45-mile route in New Jersey crosses the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware Natural Scenic and Recreational Area, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail."

On the one hand, this deal "could potentially bridge gaps between existing federal and state lands in the area. It would create a half-million-acre swath of contiguous publicly owned or preserved natural lands for recreation and wildlife preservation", but "it has been strongly backed by business interests because it is expected to ease congestion on the power grid in New Jersey, which greatly inflates electric bills. PSE&G estimates the project will save consumers more than $200 million per year in a state burdened with some of the highest electricity rates in the country."

Strong backing by business, and the fact that the utilities are projecting huge savings for customers make me suspicious. Very suspicious. Especially when lots of environmental groups are protesting. When has something like that ever turned out good?

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