After an exhaustive study process that included 10 public input workshops throughout the region and numerous discussions with residents, elected officials and others, PPL Electric Utilities has chosen Route B as the route for the Susquehanna-Roseland power line project in Pennsylvania.
The selected route runs north from Berwick, Pennsylvania, past Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, then east to Hawley and southeast to Bushkill where it crosses the Delaware River. It follows existing power lines for almost its entire distance.
The New Jersey portion of the power line, from the river to Roseland, New Jersey, will be built by Public Service Electric & Gas Co.
"Two of our main goals were to minimize the impact of this project on residents near the line, and on the environment," said David E. Schleicher, vice president - Transmission. "We are convinced that this is the best route to accomplish those goals while providing very real reliability benefits for electric customers in eastern Pennsylvania and throughout the region."
The 500-kV power line is needed to handle increasing customer demand for electricity that could otherwise lead to overloads and even blackouts on the regional power grid. Because overloads can have widespread regional effects, the line will benefit all electric customers in the region, regardless of where they live or which electric company serves their needs, Schleicher said.
He pointed out that the regional blackout of 2003 -- which started with power line failures in Ohio -- spread as far as New York City, leaving nearly 50 million people without electricity. "The regional electricity transmission system is only as strong as its weakest link," Schleicher said.
The PJM Interconnection, which oversees reliability planning for the regional power grid, identified the need for the new line and assigned PPL Electric Utilities to build the Pennsylvania portion.
PJM determined that if this upgrade is not made by May 2012, there is the potential for overloads on other power lines. The danger is greatest during periods when demand is highest -- the hottest summer days and the coldest winter nights.
Because this type of power line provides regional benefits, its cost is shared by all electric customers in PJM, a region of 51 million people encompassing 13 states and the District of Columbia.
"We understand that new power lines -- even if they are built where existing lines now stand -- can cause concern for nearby residents," Schleicher said. "We will work very hard with individual property owners to answer their questions and address their concerns about this project as we move forward."
PPL Electric Utilities evaluated three possible routes for the line. Two of the possible routes went north through Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne and Pike counties. The third possible route went south through Schuylkill, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
The decision to choose Route B was made after careful consideration of impacts along all three routes, and after considering public input. PPL Electric Utilities received extensive comments from interested people along all three routes, including comments made in person at public input workshops, by phone using a special toll-free number, and by e-mail from the project's Web site.
The company will ask the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to approve the route in an application that is expected to be filed in the fourth quarter of 2008. The PUC review process, which also includes input from the public, could take as long as a year. The line is scheduled to be in service by May 2012.
Construction of the line will provide an economic boost to the region of at least $100 million over three years, creating 165 to 330 construction jobs during that period, according to an economic impact study conducted by the Penn State Workforce Education and Development Initiative Team.
"This project will help ensure that PPL Electric Utilities can continue its long-standing record of providing excellent and reliable electric service to our customers in Pennsylvania, while supporting continued electric service reliability for all electric customers across the region," Schleicher said.