Experts: Landowners in path of power line project have rights
The York County Farm Bureau invited York County farmers and landowners who live near the proposed Transource Independence high energy power line to an informational meeting Thursday, Aug 24, at the Airville Volunteer Fire Company.
Southern York County landowners who attended an informational meeting Thursday, Aug. 24, said they are prepared for a door knock if or when Transource Energy officials decide to step onto their property.
Hundreds of Hopewell, East Hopewell, Fawn and Lower Chanceford township residents stand to lose a portion of their land to a new above-ground high-voltage power-line project. Three state experts explained to them the rights they have to fight it.
Transource has the power of eminent domain, which means property owners' land can be seized and used to build public utility infrastructure. And that power could trump any land considered part of preservation or agricultural security areas, experts said.
It is up to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to approve the power-line project.
Property rights: “You have property rights,” Penn State Law staff attorney Sean High said. High researches agricultural law issues for the Penn State Center for Agricultural and Shale Law.
PJM Interconnection, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states and the District of Columbia, claims that the project will allow existing power to freely flow south from a northern portion of the regional grid to help decrease ratepayers' electric bills.
Despite their claim, High said, landowners can still play offense.
High encouraged landowners to hire an attorney who can write a binding contract that spells out specific concerns they have regarding eminent domain. For example, he said, if a farmer grows organic vegetables, construction trucks nearby or on their land could ruin the farmer's business.
The $320 million “market efficiency” project is a first of its kind in Pennsylvania, state acting consumer advocate Tanya McCloskey said. It has an east and west component that affects residents of Franklin and York counties.
The project calls for 135-foot towers and miles of new transmission lines, according to Transource.
Community preparedness: “I feel the community is more prepared for Phase Two of the project,” Kim Carrick said.
Carrick is a member of the Stop Transource in Pennsylvania and Maryland group whose property is not affected by the proposed project. She said it's her responsibility to support her community, adding she thought the agency experts' presentations were "very concise."
The final route for the power line is expected to be submitted to the state utility commission within the next two months, Transource spokeswoman Abby Foster said.
Public hearings: Once it's submitted, there’s a checklist of items the commission needs to oversee, including hosting public hearings, before a final approval is rendered, McCloskey said.
She urged landowners to be part of the process. She told them to “bring information and present it to the commissioners.”
“Often farmland is viewed as the path of least resistance,” Pennsylvania Bureau of Farmland Preservation Director Doug Wolfgang said.
He said the project and its proposed route amounts to a land-use balancing act. Population projections in central Pennsylvania show a steady increase over the next several years, Wolfgang explained.
He said he strongly believes in farmland preservation, but he said he also knows the state is looking at supply and demand of pending electricity needs. And, rather than creating a route through a residential development, it's often easier for infrastructure and transportation projects to run through farmland.
Frank Ayd, 44, of East Hopewell Township, said he, too, feels members of Stop Transource are more prepared after the meeting.
He said he and others are not naive, and if surveyors show up, "it can be very destructive," which means fencing and trees could be removed and soil and livestock could be disturbed.
"Therefore, if contacted, I would never give permission to anyone I don't know to even walk my property line," he said.