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Transource Energy takes 36 southern York County landowners to court in power line dispute

Written by Dylan Segelbaum/The York Daily Record | Feb 28, 2018 6:38 PM
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Dolores Krick rides in the field where a proposed 16-mile above-ground power line would run through her 150-acre farm in Lower Chanceford Township. Transource Energy has initiated legal action against 36 landowners, including Krick, who have refused to allow representatives onto their properties. "They do not need to take our prime farm ground when there are other options," she said. (Photo: Submitted)

(Undated) -- Transource Energy has initiated legal action against 36 landowners in southern York County who have refused to allow its representatives onto their properties to conduct surveys and testing as it seeks to build a controversial 16-mile above-ground power line.

The line would run from Norrisville, in Harford County, Maryland, to a new electric substation in Lower Chanceford Township. It's part of the Independence Energy Connection Project, a $320-million plan that's aimed at increasing the capacity of the electric grid and delivering less expensive power to parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington D.C.

In court documents filed on Tuesday in the York County Court of Common Pleas, James Kutz and Ryan Logan, Transource Energy's attorneys, wrote that the refusal of the landowners has prevented the company from obtaining critical information.

The company is asking a judge to grant its employees, agents and representatives access to the properties to conduct surveys, appraisals and tests.

"At this point, it's like, 'Bring it on,'" said Dolores Krick, 57, who owns a 150-acre farm in Lower Chanceford Township with her husband, Steve, and is among the 36 landowners. "We are not backing down."

Krick said the proposed line would go right through the middle of their property. They run a horse riding school, she said, and it would be a "liability nightmare." She also doesn't want people on her land without seeing child abuse clearances.

In a statement, Abby Foster, community affairs representative for Transource Energy, said survey work is critical and provides the company with information that's needed to refine the proposed route.

Transource Energy, she said, appreciates that many people have granted access to the company.

"Transource and its representatives are committed to treating landowners and their properties with respect," Foster said. "While reaching a voluntary agreement with property owners is a high priority, it is imperative for Transource to continue through the phases of the project as the company seeks regulatory approvals."

 

But to Cathy Good, who's lived on her family's 350-acre farm in Lower Chanceford Township for more than 40 years, it doesn't make sense. She and her husband are also among the 36 landowners named in the cases.

"It's not even approved yet, and they want to push their way onto our land," Good said.

Good, 61, said she's "totally against" the project. She said her family wants to preserve their land for farming only -- not use it to provide electricity to another state.

"It's not necessary," she said. "It's just a profit-making project that Transource wants to push through."

In the court documents, Transource Energy said it needs to begin conducting tests, appraisals and surveys within the season of a federally threatened and state endangered species, the bog turtle. That's between April 15 and June 15. The company is required to perform four separate surveys.

Without the information from these surveys, Transource Energy said the project's design cannot be finalized and it will be delayed. That means the requirements won't be met, according to court documents.

Transource Energy has filed applications with the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The PUC has scheduled a pre-hearing conference on March 13. 

That's to deal with procedural scheduling matters and to establish a timeline for how the case will play out, said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary for the PUC. No testimony will be taken.

The project would need approval from the commission to move forward, Hagen-Frederiksen said.

State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, whose district would include a majority of the power line, has sent a letter to the commission in opposition to the application.

She wrote that "despoiling farmland preserved by taxpayers, by failing to use existing transmission infrastructure does not benefit York County in the short or long terms."

"I mean, look, 36 landowners that they're taking to court shows that there's great opposition to this project," Phillips-Hill said.

If Transource Energy is successful in obtaining a court order, law enforcement can detain and arrest people who try to restrict access to the properties, she said.

Transource Energy said the project would go in service in 2020.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Pre-hearing Conference:

When: Tuesday, March 13

What time: 10 a.m.

Where: Hearing Room No. 1, Commonwealth Keystone Building, 400 North St., Harrisburg, PA 17120.

 

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record. 

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