An administrative law judge tasked by the state Public Utility Commission to issue findings on a proposed 57-mile electric reliability improvement line requested by PPL Electric has recommended the PUC approve the plans as presented.
In a 221-page report issued Monday, Administrative Law Judge David A. Salapa found that the project is necessary, the route is OK and two proposed substations — including one in Buck Township — “is reasonably necessary for the convenience or welfare of the public.”
PPL proposes the construction of the 230-kilovolt transmission lines between Jenkins Township in Luzerne County and Palmyra Township in Wayne County.
It would also traverse the North Pocono region of Lackawanna County and a small part of both Luzerne and Monroe counties.
Two public hearings were held at the Thornhurst Fire Station in May that drew more than 100 people.
One by one, residents — mostly from Thornhurst, Clifton and Buck townships — voiced displeasure for how the line, with its 145-foot-tall steel poles, would impact the bucolic scenery that generations have come to cherish.
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, according to Jennifer Kocher, a PUC spokeswoman.
She said no vote is likely to take place before December, and there is no time requirement for the commission to take action.
The parties in the case have 20 days to file exceptions to the decision. Parties then can also file replies to the exceptions.
All of that makes up the body of evidence on which the commission will base a final decision, Kocher added.
PPL’s application states that it wants construction to begin in spring 2014 for an in-service date of November 2017. But before it could start it, the company needs PUC approval and right of eminent domain.
PPL noted the current 69-kilovolt power lines serving the region are no longer adequate for customer needs, especially in winter months when residential heating increases demand.
Also, the region is served by lines that span great distances, in some cases 40 miles, making the region more susceptible to extended power outages.
In total, the project would increase electricity reliability for about 250,000 customers in six counties, PPL’s Paul G. Wirth said.
The project includes the construction of two new substations in Covington Township in Lackawanna County and Buck Township and 11.3 miles of 138/69-kilovolt line connecting them to the main transmission line.