Two public hearings on PPL’s 57-mile “Northeast-Pocono Reliability Project” will be held Thursday at the Thornhurst firehouse.
Residents along that corridor — including those living in the Luzerne County townships of Bear Creek and Buck, through the North Pocono portion of Lackawanna County and into the mostly rural Pocono Mountain county of Wayne, are expected to voice their displeasure for how the line, with its 145-foot-tall steel poles, will impact the bucolic scenery.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has scheduled hearings for public comment Thursday on the proposal by Allentown-based PPL Electric Utilities Corp.
The hearing will focus on construction of the 230-kilovolt transmission line through portions of Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne and Monroe counties and on the utility’s application to use eminent domain as part of the project.
Hearings will be conducted by Administrative Law Judge David A. Salapa at 2 and 6 p.m., at the Thornhurst Volunteer Fire Co., 351 Old River Road, Thornhurst Township, Lackawanna County.
Salapa will listen to the company’s application and reasons for the project and the eminent domain requests. He also will listen to public comment in support or opposition to the project.
Denise McCracken, a PUC spokeswoman, said Salapa will use the hearings as the basis for his findings and will make a recommendation to the PUC. The PUC, at a future public meeting, will use his recommendation and either vote to affirm it, reject it or modify it and vote on the amended decision.
On Dec. 28, 2012, PPL filed applications and petitions seeking PUC approval for the siting and construction of the project that starts at an existing substation in Jenkins Township and ends near Paupacken Lake in east central Wayne County. Its application says that it wants construction to begin in spring 2014 for an in-service date of November 2017.
Throughout the route, there are hundreds of properties or right-of-ways that the utility has sought to buy from landowners. Most have sold or eased land for the project, but PPL was unable to reach agreement with 37 landowners to secure the right-of-ways and easements, according to the utility’s filing with the PUC.
Seven of them are in Luzerne County.
In addition to the main line and the eminent domain issues, PPL is also seeking approval for 11.3 miles of 138/69-kilovolt line connecting two proposed substations in Covington Township in Lackawanna County and Buck Township.
Several residents have already chimed in with their opposition to the project, which they said would hurt the characteristic of their surroundings.
“We are proud of the undeveloped rural character of our town,” wrote Fred Ahlborn, of Thornhurst, in a letter voicing not only his opposition but also urging the commission to “see and appreciate first hand as we try to defend our way of life and explain the irreversible damage we feel this line through our lands will impose.”
A public hearing in Thornhurst was also urged by Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca and Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Dunmore.
Blake said that while he understands the need PPL has to do this project, he also has concerns about the impact it could have on the communities it serves.
“It is my fervent hope that mutual agreement can be found to assure that the project impose the least amount of adverse impact on local citizens and property owners while achieving the necessary reliability and optimum electrical service to Northeastern PA,” Blake said.
“Considering the passionate interest of local residents and the impact the project will have in the region, I felt it imperative for the PUC to hear from residents in their community,” Carroll said on Monday.