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.
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.