The following comes from the Sierra Club:
The National Park Service (NPS) put corporate interests before protecting our parks. The agency caved to pressure from the White House, PPL and PSEG and selected Route 2, the existing corridor, as the NPS-preferred alternative for the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line. This project will destroy the scenic vistas and important natural resources of our National Park lands, which belong to all of us. This project will bring in more dirty coal-fired energy into New Jersey through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware Scenic and Recreational River and the Appalachian Trail. 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.
“Today the Obama administration sold out our National Parks. Lands that are supposed to be protected for future generations, they turned over to power companies. This is a shameful day in the long history of our parks and may set precedent for more gas and power lines through our parks. This decision is an insult to the more than 5 million people that visit the Water Gap every year,” said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.
“We will continue fighting this project even in the Courts if necessary. We will stand up for the integrity of our National Parks even if the Department of interior will not.”
“This comes two days after the administration came out with rules to block new coal plants. The Obama administration did an about face and approved a power line that will make new coal plants a reality. The rules did not address pollution from old plants and this power line will help keep those old plants operating,” said Tittel.
“Yesterday they allowed for exploration for oil drilling off our coast and today they are opening up our National Parks to bring dirty power lines to transport more coal. The Obama administration is siding with big oil and big coal against our Parks and our coast,” said Tittel.
The NPS considered several alternatives to the project, including routes completely outside the Delaware Water Gap. 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.
This decision may have been fueled by the $30 million mitigation plan proposed by the two utilities behind the project, PPL and PSEG. The plan was submitted on the last day of the public comment period and therefore not subject to public comment. $30 million would go to land acquisitions, 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.
“This is all about the power of money, whether it is coal companies and utilities pushing a power line that will cut through a national park or people standing in line to get mitigation money so that they can profit on the destruction of a National Park’s resources,” said Tittel.
The applicants had also stated that if NPS did not approve their proposed route through the Park they would continue with the project regardless. They claim their rights to the existing right-of-way would allow them to circumvent to final NPS decision.
The selection of a route by NPS 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 by this route selection. This decision will impact the health and safety of homeowners along the expanded right of way.
The NPS was required to prepare the environmental document under the National Environmental Policy Act. The draft review found the “No Build” Alternative to be the “environmentally-preferred route.” The Final EIS will be released in the fall and after a 30-day review period the NPS will release a Record of Decision.
The Susquehanna-Roseland line is unnecessary as we improve our energy efficiency and demand response programs and as energy demand drops. The line will bring dirty coal-fired energy into New Jersey while cutting across our public lands. The Susquehanna-Roseland line is a major infrastructure project that raises electricity rates, increases our dependence on fossil fuels, and does not increase grid reliability. Instead we should be investing in local renewable energy.
“John Muir is rolling in his grave today. After working so hard to protect our parks, the NPS is just giving the lands away to power companies. What comes next gas drilling?” asked Kate Millsaps, program assistant, NJ Sierra Club.