Conservation Groups Move to Stop Power Line Construction Before Irreversible Damage Is Done
Susquehanna-Roseland line through New Jersey and Pennsylvania would cause significant harm to treasured national parks
WASHINGTON, DC – A coalition of national, regional and local conservation groups filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in federal court today to stop construction of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line through three popular national parks – the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail – while the court considers claims that the power line will cause irreversible ecological and scenic damage. The National Park Service (“NPS”) approved the supersized transmission line on October 1, 2012, despite the agency’s conclusion that the project, as approved, would cause serious and enduring impacts on the parks.
As authorized by the NPS, the massive 500KV power line would slice through the parks, impairing spectacular scenery, damaging rare geological and ecological resources, and marring the recreational experience for the more than 5.2 million people who visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area each year. The NPS’s approval of the transmission line contradicts the agency’s governing mandate to protect the National Park System “unimpaired for future generations” as required by the 1916 National Park Service Organic Act.
Construction and pre-construction activities have already begun on segments of the transmission line in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Construction activities in the national park units will occur imminently. In a July 2012 environmental impact study conducted for the NPS, the human use and ecological impacts from the project were estimated to cost $89 million.
“The National Park Service has approved a project that is poised to permanently damage treasured public resources. Construction-related activities in the Delaware Water Gap could begin at any time, and if a preliminary injunction is not granted, the damage will be done before the court even gets a chance to decide the claims that are before it,” said Hannah Chang, attorney with the public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice, representing the conservation groups along with the New Jersey-based non-profit Eastern Environmental Law Center. “The circumstances here demand that construction be put on hold for now, so that the court at least has an opportunity to consider the claims raised.”
At stake is nothing less than the Delaware Water Gap’s spellbinding views, pristine environment, and diverse wildlife that include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and black bears. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was named a Top 10 most-photogenic national park for fall foliage, and is the eighth most visited national park unit in the country. The Delaware River is one of the cleanest rivers in the nation. The Appalachian Trail, completed 75 years ago, and designated as the nation’s first national scenic trail in 1968, is enjoyed by 2-3 million people each year. Together, these national parks offer some of the very best outdoor recreational opportunities for those living in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“Countless public dollars and volunteer hours have gone into protecting special places like the Delaware Water Gap,” explained Mark Zakutansky, Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club. “Allowing irreplaceable scenic vistas, trails, and wildlife habitat to be permanently damaged violates the Park Service’s mission and sends the wrong message about the value of our national treasures. We have to halt this construction, at least for now, so the court can review the case.”
The transmission line crosses unique and sensitive resources in the parks. “In the National Park Service’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Susquehanna to Roseland line, it found that this project would ‘degrade the integrity of resources and the scenic landscape’ in the parks and ‘appreciably diminish key aspects of the parks’ that visitors enjoy,” said Cinda Waldbuesser, Pennsylvania senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “That clearly violates the Organic Act which requires the agency to 'conserve the scenery' and protect park resources from impairment. We intend to hold the National Park Service accountable to their core park preservation mission.”