The New Jersey Sierra Club has joined other national, state, and local environmental and citizen groups in filing a challenge of the National Park Service’s (NPS) approval of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line. This unnecessary project was inappropriately rubberstamped by NPS despite causing irreparable harm to the eighth most visited park in the national park system. Now Sierra Club and other groups, represented by Earthjustice and the Eastern Environmental Law Center, are turning to the courts to protect our public lands from this devastating project. The complaint was filed in DC District court by ten organizations.
The National Park Service (NPS) has taken the side of polluters over protecting our parks by approving the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line expansion. Instead of selecting the best alternative for the environment, the Parks, and our clean energy future, the “No Build” alternative, NPS is putting corporate interests before the public interest.
We are challenging this outrageous decision by the NPS to protect the integrity of our public lands. We now need the courts to do the job NPS should have done and protect our public lands, not give them away to utilities. In the 150 years since our first National Park this is a day of shame. Citizen groups have to go to court to protect our national parks from our own government. If they can do it in here, Yellowstone or Yosemite could be next.
This project will spoil the scenic vistas and important natural resources of our National Park lands, which belong to all of us. Natural resources within our parks all to carry more polluting coal-fired power to eastern markets, undermining clean energy projects and puts more smog in our national parks. No amount of mitigation money can compensate for turning our public lands over to power companies and ruining the beauty of places that are supposed to be held in the public trust to be enjoyed by all of us now and for future generations.
Their own data found the project would cause $89 million in damage to public parklands but we would only receive $56 million in compensation from PPL and PSEG. NPS is selling out our parklands at a discount to polluters by allowing a mitigation package that covers less than half the destruction. The mitigation plan was submitted on the last day of the public comment period and therefore not subject to public comment. But you cannot mitigate for the destruction of a National Park. This project will ruin the breathtaking vistas and critical resources of our National Parks, diminishing the visitor experience and those impacts cannot be reversed.
The NPS considered several transmission alternatives to the project including routes completely outside the Delaware Water Gap along existing utility right of ways. However an alternative route would continue to have impacts on the Appalachian Trail and the Highlands region, which is state and federally recognized as a critical environmental resource area. The “No Build” Alternative is the only option that would prevent the destruction of resources both within and outside the park units.
The NPS approvals will have significant impacts outside the boundaries of the parks as well. The Highlands region and the historic and environmental resources of the Kittatinny Ridge communities will be impacted. This decision will impact the health and safety of homeowners along the expanded right of way.
We are also challenging the lack of a robust non-transmission alternatives review by the Park Service. The worst part about this destruction of our public lands is that it is for a project that serves no purpose. Non-transmission alternatives could obviate the need for the Susquehanna-Roseland line, especially energy efficiency and demand response.
Last month grid operator PJM announced the cancellation of two similar transmission expansion projects, the Mid Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) and the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH). The cancellation of the lines was based on falling demand, new generation plants, and the efficiency of demand response programs, the same issues we have raised about the Susquehanna-Roseland line.
We were told without the power line in service by 2012 that there would be rolling brown outs and black outs, but this summer we were able to handle peak loads without those problems. We need the court to overturn the NPS approvals and demand that they look at non-transmission alternatives to this project as part of the environmental review process.
The Park Service compromised their integrity and violated their own mission which is to protect public lands. We now need the courts to stop this project. We cannot set a dangerous precedent that opens our precious public lands up to dirty power projects. These lands are supposed to be protected for future generations, not turned over to power companies.