Senator Lisa Baker Transmission Line Testimony

I want to thank the Public Utility Commission and the Office of Consumer Advocate for honoring my request for a public meeting in our community. Last August, when this proposal was announced, the residents of my Senatorial District, and in particular, the Saw Creek Community, turned to me and other elected officials for answers.

This hearing is an extremely important event, for it gives local residents and officials the chance to publicly and officially set forth their concerns about a project that continues to generate considerable controversy.

It is understood that a responsible energy generator and supplier must anticipate future needs, not just react to the economy of the moment. It is understood that Pennsylvania will have problems with electricity reliability down the road if no new transmission lines are built. It is understood that there are no controversy-free corridors available anymore.

This does not mean that power companies have an unrestricted right to build where they want. Nor does it mean that they can be unresponsive or insensitive to legitimate community concerns. There is no perfect corridor, and this one is clearly imperfect, as evidenced by the outcry that led to this hearing.

In the months since this project was detailed, there has been extensive community reaction. There is considerable depth to the arguments and the emotion. I have not heard sufficient compelling reasons to oppose the entire Susquehanna-Roseland proposal. But based on a review of information pertaining to the project and discussions with affected individuals, I do object to the project as it pertains to Saw Creek Estates.

While using an existing right-of-way is more convenient and less costly for the company, the impacts on this community are unacceptable. The assumptions that allowed for a right-of-way that dates back to the 1920s and a line to be constructed in the 1970s are not valid today. The conditions are far different, as are the environmental standards and the community views.

The science of electromagnetic fields and stray voltage are issues still debated and disputed, but there are certain economic facts that cannot be erased. Larger towers are more disruptive, and higher voltage raises the health care stakes. Property values will suffer, because there are many who will not want to buy or live so close. Buying a residence is a discretionary act, so people contemplating a purchase likely will not care what the studies say or what the company contends.

It may not be easy for PPL to find a bypass route comparable in cost. There are many areas off limits because of environmental considerations. But the company must find an alternative route as a matter of fairness and public acceptance. That tradeoff could enable them to then realize the overall service and economic benefits of the project.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931