Bucks co. utility fight

February 16, 2009 2:58:02 PM PST
There is a power struggle of sorts playing out in Bucks County where neighbors are fighting the plans of a local utility company.

"It's just going to be a scar, it's going to be a scar on the environment," Smicker said.

Tom Smicker has had a protest sign posted on his barn door for almost two years. He said it's not coming down as long as PPL goes forward with it's plans to put power lines up in his backyard. Residents are angry because the proposed route would cut through environmentally sensitive portions of Springfield and Richland Townships.

PPL said the new lines are necessary to meet the higher electrically demands.

"We all accept that progress requires increased capacity that's a given but when we found out they had two other viable options that's when we said well just a minute now," Smicker said.

Option one was to erect the power lines along a SEPTA route, but Springfield township manager Richard Schilling told Action News PPL walked away from negotiations.

Option 2 was to update existing lines along 309. On February 11th a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Judge sided with PPL's plan that would stretch the lines across 7 acres, roughly the length of the Tohickon Creek. The utility poles would be erected through forests and wetlands. Schilling read us a DEA report critical of this decision.

"Of all the alternatives the cross country route appears to be, uh have the most environmental impact."

Ernest Weaver is one of several residents who will lose property because of the plan. He said his 4 acres of land would be condemned because he refused to settle with PPL, saying their compensation offer wasn't sufficient.

The law said under eminent domain, PPL could acquire the land anyway.

"We're self-employed so that was our retirement and it's going to effect what it's worth down the road," Weaver said.

So what happens now? The judge's recommendation plus the township's appeal will then go in front of 5 PUC judges who will make the final decision.

"And our supervisors are prepared for the long fight," Schilling said.

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