In a public forum last Wednesday in Harrisburg, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA convened a panel to discuss and hear public comments about the designation of 52 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties as part of the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. The forum was designed to better educate the public about the problems posed by the corridor designation and to gather public comments to echo in Washington.In a press release issued after the meeting Casey said he held the meeting "to draw light to an issue that has not received the type of attention in Washington that it deserves. The Department of Energy has not conducted sufficient public meetings nor did they listen to the people of Pennsylvania when they made a designation that will turn 52 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties into a superhighway of large transmission towers and power lines."
Casey joined a panel consisting of Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty, Rep. Bill DeWeese (DGreene/Fayette/Washington), Rep. Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne), Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery), Sonny Popowsky, the Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate, as well as participants from the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
According to the press release, the panel heard comments, information and concerns from the audience about the transmission corridor plan for Pennsylvania as well as concerns about the Allegheny Trail power line that is planned for Southwest Pennsylvania.
Once this corridor is finalized, authority would, as a practical matter, reside with the federal government and power companies could effectively circumvent state and local government. Casey said he believes that because of the significant impact this could have on rural communities and farmers, the placing of the towers should be done in coordination with their local communities and state government.
During the markup of the 2007 Farm Bill, Casey introduced an amendment that would have prohibited the use of eminent domain in placing electric transmission towers on vital agriculture lands.
The press release said Casey had met with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and written two letters expressing his opposition to the Department of Energy's final decision to build the NIETC through 52 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. In their meeting and in correspondence, Casey also urged the Department to conduct more public outreach.