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Specter said he would reconsider the power tower plan

4 September 2009 1,230 views No Comment

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter has amped up his response to Saw Creek’s power line opponents.

“I’d like to have them know I am concerned and am exploring alternatives,” Specter said in an interview prompted by a phone call to the Pocono Record from his office last week.

“I’ve been thinking about the situation in Saw Creek and have some thoughts. I’d like to take up with PJM the question as to an updated evaluation of the need for this line,” Specter said.

PJM, the agency that manages the electricity grid in the northeastern United States, completed a regional transmission expansion plan report in 2007. The report requires PPL to improve its lines by 2012.

But a lot has happened since 2007 said Specter, “We’re in the middle of a recession.”

Plus, the power landscape in the nation is flirting with major changes which could make PJM’s power expansion moot. “The stimulus has a lot of money for energy issues,” Specter said, including $80 billion for solar, wind and other for alternative powers. “We’re about to take up legislation for cap and trade which will have an impact on global warming,” Specter said.

In addition to requesting PJM make an updated report on the need for expanded power lines, Specter would like PPL to consider some alternatives.

Specter wants PPL to take a look at alternative power line routes. He said Saw Creek is concerned that PPL has not talked about acquiring the neighboring land owned by Wolfington Companies as a way to bypass the gated community.

He would also like PPL to take a look at burying the lines or making the towers, projected to be 190 feet tall, shorter.

“I’m going to ask the PUC to take a fresh look at all these factors. My overall view is, there is so much concern here that we should look at a way to bring relief to these folks,” Specter said. He will ask the Public Utilities Commission to consider all these questions.

PPL Spokesperson Paul Wirth said Specter raised important issues. “We’ve been talking about these issues with residents throughout the process and we will be happy to give the senator a prompt and thorough response,” Wirth said.

Saw Creek resident Al Spinelli sees Specter’s promise to get involved as a positive sign.

“That’s all we can ask,” Spinelli said. “It’s what we’ve been asking the senator all along. We’re very happy he is taking an active role in intervening in the process. That is why we wanted him here.” Specter visited Saw Creek Wednesday to get a firsthand view of the current power lines.

PPL has applied to the state Public Utilities Commission to build 190-foot towers to carry 730 kilovolts of electricity from the Berwick power plant through Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe counties and onto a link-up in Roseland, N.J. The proposed line will mainly follow existing PPL rights of way, including the path through Saw Creek.

Homeowners are worried about electromagnetic waves affecting health. They are also concerned about a drop in property values and a loss of natural beauty.

If the Public Utilities Commission rejects PPL’s application, approval could be sought from the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission. “At its heart, this is a states versus federal rights issue,” Spinelli said.

By Beth Brelje

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