Saw Creek is fixing for a fight
Residents gird for battle against PPL power line
Saw Creek homeowner Al Spinelli stands under the power line near his house on Wednesday. PPL proposes building new towers more than twice as tall with 500-kilovolt lines replacing the 230-kilovolt lines.DAVID KIDWELL/Pocono Record
Beth Brelje

BUSHKILL — Opponents of PPL's proposed power line upgrade through Saw Creek are organizing for a battle against the electric supply giant.

Their weapon of choice: environmental attorney Richard Lippes.


PPL-sponsored open houses on the power line project will be held

Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the PPL Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center on Route 6 near Hawley.

Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Fernwood Hotel and Resort, Bushkill.

Lippes has worked on high-profile cases including representing homeowners in the Love Canal toxic waste scandal and the Three Mile Island nuclear core meltdown.

The board of Saw Creek retained him this week. Lippes says he has also been contacted by a group in New Jersey about the same power line, and predicts others will likely join the effort to change PPL's plans.

A PPL power line already runs through Saw Creek. As part of a plan to increase power supply, the company wants to take down the existing, 80-foot-tall towers, build 190-foot-tall towers, replace the current 230-kilovolt lines on one side and add a new 500-kilovolt line on the other side of the towers.

The proposed towers will be wider, and higher than the tree line. Much of the route will run along existing PPL land, but will also touch some new areas, including a swath through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

"We have no industry here. We have nothing but our natural beauty, and that is slowly being destroyed," said Peter Derrenbacher, president of Saw Creek's board.

"The towers will be visible at the highest point of Saw Creek, at the Top of the World restaurant. They will be the largest land feature inside our community. We just want to be left alone," he said.

Community officials are worried about the health of residents and property values.

At a Wednesday press conference in Saw Creek, Derrenbacher said there are people who live along the lines who cannot get a home appraisal because the effect of the power lines on property value is too uncertain.

"This will destroy home values. Saw Creek will become the place with the power lines. It's already happened," said homeowner Al Spinelli.

Residents are worried that increased electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, could cause cancer clusters, childhood leukemia and other illnesses.

PPL says that is not a problem. "The design we are using will mean EMFs will be lower than they are today. In some cases, up to 50 percent lower," said PPL spokesman Paul Wirth in a phone interview.

One of the most upsetting aspects to the proposal, Saw Creek residents say, is that they will not reap any benefits for their trouble. Saw Creek gets electric service from Met-Ed, not PPL.

"We're just being used as a vehicle to move electricity somewhere else," said Derrenbacher.

Wirth disagreed. "Met-Ed customers will benefit just as much from this power line as PPL customers, because it is a regional interconnected system. These high-voltage power lines serve all electric companies and all electric customers," he said.

Wirth said the new power lines would benefit all of Pennsylvania and prevent overloads. "Demand keeps increasing. This will make electric service more reliable," he said.

Some in Saw Creek have a solution to the squabble. "These lines ought to be put underground. Towers are old fashioned," said homeowner Bill Hopkins.

Many agree that underground electrical lines would be acceptable. But Wirth said it is technically impossible to put a line of this voltage underground.

"PPL is treating us like stupid people. Talking about what color the towers can be. How fashionable," said Saw Creek homeowner Dorothy Soden. "They're not talking about the serious ramifications this will have."

PPL is seeking public input on the exact placement of the new towers, which roads would crews use to build the new line, and how the poles will be finished, weatherized, which will look brown, or galvanized, which will look gray.

Talking with Saw Creek residents has not been easy, Wirth said.

"It's very frustrating. They tell the media they have these concerns but are refusing to meet with us," he said.

PPL had asked for a meeting with the Saw Creek board on Oct. 19. "They agreed to it, then called on Friday (the day before) and uninvited us," Wirth said.

Another Saw Creek meeting with PPL was supposed to happen Saturday, but again, it has been canceled.

The route must be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission. Saw Creek residents want a public hearing on the route choice by the PUC inside Saw Creek.

PPL needs input from residents about landscaping and other issues. "We've been frustrated in our attempts to get in. We are willing to come at any time," Wirth said.

Conversation between Saw Creek and PPL is likely to get more complicated. In addition to hiring environmental attorney Lippes, Saw Creek hired public relations firm Jenna Communications.

Saw Creek has budgeted for legal issues, so there will be no assessment on residents to help pay for the battle, according to Derrenbacher.

PPL has moved forward, reaching out to people who live along the lines in Saw Creek individually and asking to meet with them one-on-one. The electric company also has more public meetings planned outside the community. The new line will affect people from Berwick to Roseland, N.J.

"It is a big fight. But it was a big fight that the folks fought on Upper Delaware River too," said Lippes, who was sucessful in moving a proposed transmission line off the Upper Delaware River.

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Member since: 10/29/2008 
Total posts: 46 
JOBS..Lack there of. Can someone explain to me why a local factory is bussing in workers form NY, when there are so many people here hurting for work? And just WHO are these "workers"? Are there not enough people HERE with FAMILIES to raise, who are OUT OF WORK and CANNOT FIND decent jobs? I'll g... Full Message
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