Citizens File to Stop S-R EIS Ramrodding

Keryn dug out the big story in NJ on Monday.  A broad range of citizens groups from the grassroots Stop the Lines group, that has been fighting the Susquehanna-Roseland line from the beginning, to the National Parks Conservation Association, an independent national organization devoted to protecting all our national parks for future generations, filed for an injunction in US Federal District Court in Washington, DC to block the underhanded deal struck by the Obama Administration to ramrod the S-R line through the middle of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

Here is a link to the complaint filed on Monday.

Before you read the complaint, here is a little background.  Start here with my account of the National Park Service’s assessment in fall 2011 that the lowest impact S-R alternative was not to build the line at all in the Recreation Area.   Then move on to my post about the power company plan to give the Park Service additional land, bought by us PJM rate payers, as a “mitigation” bribe to allow the power companies’ favored route through the Recreation Area.  Finally, take a look at these two posts, here and here, that put the whole S-R mess in the context of the Obama Administration’s desperate attempt to salvage selected power line projects, including S-R, before the long term decline in electricity demand undercuts the need for them altogether.

Now you are ready to understand the complaint.

The main point of the injunction is that the Environmental Impact Statement process for the S-R line was all but complete when President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Salazar illegally interfered with a deal they brokered with PSEG, the S-R line’s owner.  That deal would have allowed PSEG, using rate payer money, to collude with a corporate “conservation” enabler to buy land around the DWGNRA to somehow compensate the National Park Service for the irreparable damage, well documented in the EIS, that the S-R line would cause in the Recreation Area.

The NPS, naturally, knuckled under when its bosses cut their corrupt deal with a corporate co-conspirator.  The resulting approval of PSEG’s preferred route, despite NPS rejection only months before, is absurd on its face and illegal from top to bottom.  No additional public input was allowed, no supplemental report analyzing the brand new alternative was published, and NPS present no reasons for their sudden change of heart.  When corporations and politicians get desperate, the result is ugly.

The complainants cite the following self-contradictory statement from the NPS final opinion to show just how crazy things are:

Adverse cumulative impacts on landscape connectivity, wildlife habitat, and wildlife would result inside the terrestrial study area from past, present, and reasonably foreseeable projects . . . . Alternative 2 would contribute to the cumulative adverse impact on these resources, particularly with regard to fragmentation, loss of landscape connectivity, and hazard to migratory birds.  When the adverse impacts as a result of alternative 2 are combined with the impacts from the other projects in the terrestrial study area, an overall adverse cumulative impact would be expected. Alternative 2 would not increase the levels of impacts.” [italics added by complainants]

So NPS concluded that “an overall adverse cumulative impact would be expected” from Alternative 2 (the PSEG preferred route through the middle of the DWGNRA) but that “Alternative 2 would not increase the levels of impacts.” Huh?  And the NPS offered no reasons why they described adverse impacts and then concluded that there would be no increased level in impacts.  Crazy.

The complainants also describe the secret deal that the NPS cut with PSEG specifically designed to hide the deal from public discussion:

At the time of its January 30, 2012 comments, Applicants already had “engaged and provided funds to a . . . land conservation organization to begin acquiring interests in private properties,” and Applicants were already in “dialogue with landowners” over certain tracts of land. Applicants and their consultants had committed to keeping information about the lands proposed to be purchased secret and were willing to “share information that is not governed by specific confidentiality agreements with the [Park Service]” only if the Park Service agreed not to disclose this information to the public.

In other words, the Park Service colluded with PSEG to knowingly undermine the EIS process mandated by federal law.

The rush is on to salvage only the second of the four Project Mountaineer power lines to have any hope of success.  PJM’s original propaganda about the need for TrAIL, PATH, MAPP and Susquehanna-Roseland has been revealed as complete fantasy.  Allegheny Energy got lucky with TrAIL, but PPL and PSEG, the S-R line partners, are desperate to build their project before the public and politicians catch on to the fact that this is a totally unnecessary boondoggle.

We will see if the judges in US District Court are interested in law enforcement, or whether the Obama RRTT will ramrod them too.

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