Well, it didn’t take long for PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, to jump stiff legged at their employers’ “fast track” RRTT (pronounced er-tit). Here is a section of today’s PEER news release, which focuses on Obama’s stab in the back to the National Park Service employees who have been working hard for the last three years on the Susquehanna-Roseland Environmental Impact Statement:
Announced as a “pilot project” and a boon to jobs, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other top officials vowed to slash “red tape” to move the transmission corridors rapidly forward on a fast track basis.
“We do not object to fast-tracking projects as long as political appointees follow the laws protecting parks and the environment–but that hasn’t happened here,” stated PEER executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Using jobs as a pretext is misplaced. More jobs can be created by protecting parks than by trashing them.”
PEER contends that Secretary Salazar, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and other Interior officials have met repeatedly with project proponents, PPL Electric Utilities of Allentown, Pennsylvania (PPL) and Public Service Electric and Gas Company of Newark, New Jersey (PSE&G), and have already approved a route for a new power line that will cut across the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The power line will be strung on 200 foot-tall towers that will permanently impair the scenic values of one of the most beautiful areas in the crowded Northeastern Corridor of the United States.
For at least three years, the NPS has been developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) to consider the PPL/PSE&G proposal, following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The draft EIS is supposed to be announced to the public for comment before the end of 2011. The transmission line will bring power from PPL generating facilities at Berwick, Pennsylvania across the Delaware River and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (NRA) to northern New Jersey.
As part of the deal, the draft EIS will NOT consider at least two alternatives that would lessen impacts to the park’s scenery (#6 and #7) but will include at least one alternative (#2B) demanded by the companies that is untenable from a safety perspective. The Secretary and the Director have unofficially committed to the companies that the NPS will select Alternative 2, the alternative preferred by the companies but which is the most damaging to the resources and scenery of the parks. In return, the companies have reportedly agreed to pay $60 million for land acquisition and administration inside and near the NRA.
“This is not ‘fast track,’ it is a short circuit in which political appointees are putting their thumbs on the scale to skew the review process,” Ruch added. “It is one thing to select an alternative after the conclusion of the NEPA process, but is something else to decide on the alternative before public comment has even begun.”
Is this any way to treat employees who have repeatedly, and patiently, met with the public to involve citizens and land owners in the process of siting transmission lines?
“Betrayal” was the word that rises to the top of my mind as I read this press release. Hundreds of people attended public meetings with Park Service and USFS employees on the PATH line. They were thoughtful, conscientious and willing to hear what we had to say.
The situation with the S-R line highlighted in the PEER press release indicates how corrosive corporate/governmental conspiracies are to the fabric of our nation. The Obama grease-the-skids “pilot program” is nothing of the sort. It is an agenda that was cooked up by Enron’s Ken Lay and Halliburton’s Dick Cheney ten years ago in the White House.
We are beginning to see a pattern emerging:
From the PEER press release: “The Secretary and the Director have unofficially committed to the companies that the NPS will select Alternative 2, the alternative preferred by the companies but which is the most damaging to the resources and scenery of the parks.”
From the NARUC comments in a recent FERC case: “Given that our members remain the primary transmission siting authorities, we are disappointed that we were not privy to the details or even informal conversations about this proposal prior to the above-referenced meeting, especially since the proposal has been under discussion since June and was vetted with industry stakeholders long before it was even revealed to us.”
Cabinet level presidential appointees are cutting deals with electric power conglomerates undercutting the lawful authority of their own federal employees and sovereign state officials.
Shame on you President Obama.