S-R “Mitigation” = Bribery of NPS, Let Them Know You Think It Stinks

For decades here in WV, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency that issues permits for valley fills in mountaintop removal mining, has issued permits based on “stream mitigation” conducted by mining companies.  This “mitigation” is supposed to, in some way, compensate US citizens for the destruction of miles and miles of headwater streams.  While mining operations bury entire stream ecosystems, mining companies are allowed to throw some riprap along stream banks miles away, and that is supposed to “mitigate” the destruction caused by mountaintop removal in the permitted area.

Now this bogus “mitigation” is coming to NJ in the form of a deal engineered by US Dept. of Energy Secretary Chu at the direction of President Obama.  Last fall, we saw here the fast tracking of a number of high voltage transmission projects by the Obama Administration, over the objections of National Park Service professionals.  The Susquehanna-Roseland line, a Project Mountaineer sister project to PATH and TrAIL, was one of those fast tracked projects.

The S-R line was moving through the normal Environmental Impact Statement process, but things weren’t moving fast enough for Sec. Chu and his power company friends.  We, as well as the NPS employees, knew that a backroom deal was coming, and now we know what it is.

In November 2011, despite pressure coming from the White House, the National Park Service recommended that the S-R line not be built through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area as the best way to protect the park from the many negative impacts of the route preferred by power company PSEG, owner of the NJ section of the S-R line.

After the first of the year, PSEG revealed by the “mitigation” deal.  The power company first offered to spend $60 million buying new land to add to the DWGNRA.  When that made the bribe a little to obvious, PSEG reduced the deal to $30 million.  The S-R line would remain on its current route through the middle of the NRA, but some extra land would be tacked on to the edge of the existing park.  How this is supposed to “mitigate” (PSEG’s word) the impacts of the transmission line, or to conform with the NPS “no build” recommendation is a mystery to me.

Most galling of all, we rate payers in PJM Interconnection will actually be paying the $30 million “mitigation” bribe through the FERC/PJM cost recovery process.  Because this bribe will be considered a cost of construction of the S-R line, FERC also lets PSEG collect “incentive” return on equity of more than 12% (that’s about $4 million) every year from now on.

NPS was shamed by this bribe offer into re-opening is still accepting public comment in their EIS process, so you and I can tell them what we think of this outrageous deal.  The deadline for comments is January 31.  You can comment directly on the NPS Web site at this link.

Keryn has more information on the StopPATH Web site here and here.

4 thoughts on “S-R “Mitigation” = Bribery of NPS, Let Them Know You Think It Stinks

  1. One *minor* correction – the NPS was not shamed into reopening comments – this period of comment & public hearing was always scheduled as an opportunity to comment on the *DRAFT* EIS – and please, in no way disparage the work done by the Park staff on the EIS – they have done an admirable job of presenting the true impacts to the park and are dedicated, hard working individuals with nothing but the best interest of the park in mind.

    Salazar & Chu, on the other hand…well my mom always says if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all…so I’ll stop here. 🙂

    Thanks also to you & your readers for your support!

    Fight the Power!

    • Thanks for the correction, and the comments in support of the NPS staff. The NPS did a good job on their “no build” recommendation coming out of the alternatives phase of the EIS process. PEER’s objections last fall make it clear that there is a significant difference of opinion between NPS employees and the Obama administration concerning the rule of law and rights of due process.

  2. Nice of her to admit it… and she sounds rather proud of her bad self, doesn’t she? Fact is that the power companies will make 12.93% profit on the remaining balance of of the $30M bribe EVERY YEAR for the next 50 years. The company’s FERC formula rate operates much the same way a car loan or a mortgage works. The purchase of the land-bribe at $30M will depreciate in value a little bit each year. The power company receives this depreciation, which pays down the remaining value of the asset. In addition, they earn 12.93% of the remaining value of the asset every year. I don’t know what depreciation rate they are using and I haven’t had time to look it up, so I can’t do the exact math… but I’d estimate that the first year’s profit will be about $5M, on the land-bribe alone. They will also be receiving the same deal on the other $1.2B of project assets, PLUS O&M and taxes — yearly.

    All this comes out of the pockets of the 61 million PJM ratepayers in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

    The power companies are using OUR money to bribe the NPS in exchange for the NPS surrender of OUR national park assets. And the power companies walk away with billions of dollars of profit AND a brand spanking new transmission line over which to transport their electricity for sale. It’s mind boggling!

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