Government agencies acted properly in approving a high-voltage power line through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a federal judge has found, rejecting a challenge by environmentalists opposed to the project.
“This ruling affirms the position of the companies and the National Park Service that these permits were issued properly and after thorough study,” said Stephanie Raymond, PPL vice president of transmission and substations. “We will move forward with construction as planned.”
The $1.2 billion Susquehanna-Roseland line, a partnership between PPL and New Jersey-based PSE&G, is needed to cope with increasing demand on the region’s electric grid, according to the utility companies, who jointly heralded Friday’s decision by Judge Richard Roberts as “the right decision for millions of people throughout the mid-Atlantic region who will have more reliable electric service because of this project.”
Roberts’ decision, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., rejected a lawsuit filed by environmental advocacy groups seeking to overturn last year’s approval of the 500-kilovolt transmission line that will stretch 145 miles between PPL’s Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Salem Township and the Roseland substation near Newark, N.J.
The National Parks Conservation Association, together with nine other organizations, filed suit against then-Interior Secretary Kenneth Salzar in October, claiming officials did not perform an adequate review of potential environmental impacts, and that they broke other laws during the permitting process.
“The plaintiffs have not shown that NPS’ decision was arbitrary and capricious,” the judge wrote, adding the decision was “rationally based on the administrative record.”
“The plaintiffs allege that NPS’ decision to grant the permits and the expanded right-of-way was arbitrary and capricious because the NPS did not give ‘primary emphasis’ to protecting the river … and because the project qualified as a water resources project that would have a ‘direct and adverse effect on the values for which such river was established,’ ” the judge wrote.
However, the judge sided with the defendants, who countered that while the line will have some negative effects on the river’s scenic values, it will create no substantial interference because most of the river view will remain unchanged and the NPS required measures to mitigate detrimental impacts.
“In general, an agency’s assessment about whether an action substantially interferes with public use and enjoyment of the river’s values is entitled to deference,” the judge wrote.
The line already is under construction elsewhere in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. A statement released by PSE&G earlier in August indicated that construction at the Water Gap was to begin Tuesday with access road construction. Construction in the four miles of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area will take about six months to complete, the utility said.
The line is expected to be in service by June 2015.