Power line is a federal battle

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:36

    LACKAWAXEN - Developers say they don’t want the river route, but officials are concerned that federal authorities might allow it anyway. The developers of the New York Regional Interconnect, a 400-kilovolt power transmission line project, have said the railroad right-of-way shadowing the federally protected Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River is not their first choice. Even though the developers already have acquired that right-of-way, they claim they prefer an inland route along a right-of-way owned by Columbia Gas. But others are concerned that the Bush Administration may intervene to expedite the project. Last Sunday, National Park Service Upper Delaware Superintendent David Forney said his agency has formally notified the Department of Energy of its opposition to the project. Forney spoke before a gathering of 300 persons opposed to the project at a meeting sponsored by the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition. Forney said Interior and Energy department people are now “working on an interpretation” of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Other authorities, familiar with that review and current policy say the 1978 Rivers Act, from the Carter Administration, may not fare well when weighed against the priorities of the Bush Administration. Passage of the Energy Act of 2005 was one of President Bush’s most sought after projects and the developer’s request to declare their route as a federal energy priority could provide a major test for both laws. Part of the rationale for the Sunday meeting was to begin raising $250,000 for a legal fund to fight the power line, said Coalition officer Pat Carullo. Environmental specialist, attorney Richard Lippes has been retained by the coalition and spoke briefly at Sunday’s meeting. “You can fight city hall,” Lippes told the audience, which included local Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers from areas along the proposed line route. “If it wasn’t possible, I would not have been able to do what I’ve been doing for 35 years,” Lippes said. Coalition spokesman Troy Bystrom confirmed concerns about Bush Administration intervention on behalf of the project. However, “There are elections coming in the fall,” he said.