Surely You Jest, Utility Tells Uncle Sam

     SCRANTON, Pa. (CN) – A power company claims the National Park Service is unreasonably, and irresponsibly, refusing to trim trees along power lines through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. PPL Electric Utilities Corp. claims that it has to do the work, to prevent forest fires and blackouts, which often are caused by trees shorting out power lines.

     PPL claims that the routine maintenance is required by state and federal law, and that it has had a right-of-way easement for 80 years – since before the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was created.
     “Indeed, one of the causes of the Northeast Blackout of 2003, which affected an estimated 55 million people across a broad swath of eight states and Ontario, was a tree limb coming into contact with high-voltage power lines in Ohio,” PPL says in its federal complaint.
     PPL claims that managers of the recreation area refused to allow it to trim trees along 1.5 miles of power lines, though PPL says it has been doing that routinely for 40 years.
     The recreation area was conceived of in the 1960s when the Army Corps of Engineers planned a dam on the Delaware River. After the dam plan collapsed due largely to environmental opposition, the Park Service took over management of the land in 1978. A 40-mile section of the Delaware River there has been declared wild and scenic.
     PPL claims that the Park Service told it that it needs to undergo a full environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act before trimming the vegetation, and to consult about endangered species.
     PPL says the trimming work does not constitute a major action requiring review under federal environmental law, and wants to move forward immediately, citing time as a factor.
     PPL is represented by Andrew Foster with Drinker Biddle and Reath in Philadelphia.

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